South African Cape lions

Zoos: Saviors of Threatened Species or Creators of Unnatural Ones?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | December 17th, 2012 | 6 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: africa, biodiversity, cheetahs, China, conservation, Eco Travel, elephants, endangered speices, environment, Ethiopia, extinction, genetic diversity, genetics, giant pandas, Green Living, lions, natural habitats, nature, North African Barbary lions, Smithsonian National Zoo, South African Cape lions, species extinction, Tasmanian tiger, threatened species, travel, wild animals, zoos

Lion Under Tree

A new species of lion has recently been discovered, announced the National Geographic Society a few weeks ago. Were the animals caught by camera trap or spotted by a tracker in the remote regions of Africa? No. They were found — in all places — in an Ethiopian zoo. It’s questionable whether any other representatives of this species are alive in the wild today.

All over the world, the struggle to keep endangered species from going extinct is often played out in zoos or in captive breeding centers. The last known Tasmanian tiger lived out its life in a zoo before it died in 1936, giant pandas are being bred in Chinese reserves and whooping cranes are being raised at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.

Living in zoos or in other places of captivity, however, changes wild animals — sometimes to the point where behaviorally they little resemble their wild counterparts. But is keeping an altered, threatened wild species from going extinct better than losing it altogether?