Friday, September 19, 2014

Zoo Rant Week: What the future holds for zoos, and a few closing thoughts

Read part one here.
Read part two here.
Read part three here.
Read part four here.

We've been on a journey this week. If you're reading this far, thanks for putting up with my rant.

I want to make it very clear that I don't have all the answers. I am constantly learning, and I'm the type of person who will always, always take in new information, consider it, and add it to my opinions on things. That said, I don't really see a near future where we won't need zoos for the reasons I've described. When it comes down to it, zoos may be the only places we can get to see some animals in the future. They already are, for a select unfortunate few species.

If we continue down our current path, zoos may be the only place we see wildlife in the future.

That's not a world I want to live in, or leave to my children. But the frustration is that we live in a very polarized political climate. On the one hand, I get it-- yes, it's scary. Sometimes it's easier to live in denial than accept a truth that doesn't sound changeable. But on the other hand, even if you don't believe in climate change, why would you not want to do anything in your power to make this planet a better place to live?

And then there are the folks who think all zoos are bad. There are certainly some zoos out there that aren't great, or may even be downright bad. But as I mentioned at the start of the week, there are a few easy ways you can find good zoos to support. And a 1.5 hour "documentary"* is not a good place to go looking for zoos to avoid.

So what is the future of zoos? Well, assuming this slippery path of legislature against certain animals in zoos doesn't hold up, I think the future of zoos is bright. I know this, because the people who work in zoos are driven by passion, compassion, and a drive to change the world. We work with these animals not just because of some pipe dream leftover from when we were children (though that certainly sparked many of us to head in this direction), but because it's hard not to care once you learn what's really facing these animals.

I go to work every day and I have the chance to save species and change lives and maybe even better the world. That's a pretty heavy responsibility, for someone who spends most of their day picking up some form of poo. One of my extracurricular goals each day at work is to look at my animals, my exhibits, and myself, and ask what I can be doing better. What can I do more of, what can I add to my routine, what can I suggest to my bosses? And then I implement it, and I do this every single day.

Zoos will never be static. We will always be striving to do more, because we know and recognize that the system isn't perfect (no system is!), and we've come such a long way in the last forty years alone that we can only dream of what's ahead. But if we're not given the chance to improve, to keep working toward a better and brighter zoo, the only thing that can replace us is worldwide change.

Which is why it makes even less sense to me that SeaWorld has recognized that people want to see change, come up with and implemented a plan, and it's making people angrier at them.

So that's it. Those are my thoughts. Like I said, they may not be the right answers, but this is what I've been wanting to say for a long time. This is the most political I'll ever get on my blog. I hope someone out there got something positive from this and thanks, again, no matter how you feel, for reading.

*I use the word documentary regarding BLACKFISH loosely, because on its original release, the film's own website referred to it as a psychological thriller.