The Importance of Accredited Zoos

Modern zoological gardens constitute important observation venues of wildlife. More than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums on an annual basis; nearly 10% of the world’s population! As in ancient Egyptian times, when private animal menageries were first established, and still today, zoological gardens continue to amaze young and old alike. However, beyond the joy sparked by a close encounter with a giant of the savannah, or a great feline of the deep Asian forests, accredited zoos and aquariums of the world are true scientific institutions devoted to serving the conservation of our biodiversity.

Veterinarians, biologists, animal care technicians and researchers combine their efforts every day to better understand the biology of different animal species and therefore, plan more efficient conservation measures of natural habitats. More than 225 million U.S. dollars are invested annually by North American zoological institutions in conservation projects directly unfoldingin nature.

However, it is now obvious that this “wild natural habitat” isn’t what it used to be. Transformed by agriculture, urban sprawl and industries, threatened by disease, climate changes and pollution, natural wild habitats have lost just about all that is “wild” about them. Of course, these drastic changes have a major impact on living species which depend on them.

Over the past 40 years, the World Wildlife FundNature confirms that bird, mammal, fish, amphibian and reptile populations have diminished by half.

In light of these alarming statistics, the role zoos and aquariums play has become even more urgent: not only are they the last refuge for species threatened by extinction, they’re also becoming unique places to acquire a ton of knowledge about the biology of these species. Zoologists from around the world and scientists working in the wild, share their findings and, once this precious information is gathered, it is transposed into tangible, on the ground conservation actions.

Building awareness everyday

Accredited zoos and aquariums of the world also offer an extraordinary platform for education and building awareness regarding biodiversity conservation issues; it’s difficult not to be touched as we listen to a biologist tell the story of what’s at stake with poaching issues in Africa, while admiring an elephant standing right in front of us. Arousing emotions, awaking an interest, inviting people to take action, this is the educational mission zoological institutions throughout the world have given themselves. Many biologists, scientists and veterinarians began their fascinating story with a visit to a zoo when they were still children.

But knowing more about animal species’ biology doesn’t only allow us to intervene in nature. Over the past 4,000 years, zoos and aquariums have changed their practices; their goal is to constantly set higher standards for animal welfare, a subject more relevant than ever. Creating environments resembling natural habitats, offering behavioral stimulation programs specific to each species, maintaining social groups, these are some of the practices supported by national and world zoo and aquarium accreditations, of which the Zoo de Granby is a member.

Contributing to breeding programs

True reserves of our biodiversity’s genetic heritage, zoos and aquariums participate in many breeding programs in captivity; the Przewalski’s horse, the California condor and Scimitar oryx are among the species that disappeared in the wild, and then have been reintroduced after zoos implemented breeding programs in their zoos. These extraordinary success stories confirm to all enthusiasts who work every day with their institution’s residents that the work they accomplish is a source of hope for the future.

Julie Hébert, Biologist
Director, Education and Sustainable Development