Outmoded zoos Obsolete zoological gardens Outdated practice of display of captive animals
London Zoo, the first to open, in 1826, may be the first to close. Attendance has long been slipping and this is attributed by its critics to a mixture of fiscal ineptitude, poor maintenance, mediocre exhibits, lacklustre programmes, disregard for visitor services, bad management and an adherence to an outmoded philosophy.
Zoos in their present form cannot assist in developing a better understanding of wildlife and a holistic view of nature. The zoo is essentially a 19th century concept which catered to the entertainment of the emerging middle class by providing novelty and edification. The concept has is outdated, not sufficient for the day. Zoos still tend to focus on the bigger, diurnal and generally African animals. They continue, like most other forms of museums, to develop exhibits that are object-driven, not story-driven; this means they select an object (an animal) and then choose some way to display it, rather than select a path of information and then choose the objects that will illuminate it. Zoos must broaden their scope. They must find ways to demonstrate the connections and interdependence between all components of nature; they must create exhibits that explain the relationships between soils and flowers and frogs and trees and elephants. And evolution and extinction.
The closure of zoos would be a victory only for the animal-rights movement. Zoos are one of the best vehicles we have for the conservation of nature. Millions of people visit them every year -- more than attend all professional sports activities combined. There is a vitally important need for institutions that can influence audiences on such a scale.
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