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American Zoos: A Shifting Balance between Recreation and Conservation

American Zoos: A Shifting Balance between Recreation and Conservation

(p.65) Chapter Five American Zoos: A Shifting Balance between Recreation and Conservation
The Ark and Beyond
Pamela M. Henson
University of Chicago Press

American zoos went through significant changes in basic goals during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from parks for recreation and education to centers for conservation of endangered species. From the first American zoo at Philadelphia to the National Zoological Park and Bronx Zoo founded by William Temple Hornaday, to the modern San Diego Wild Animal Park, this chapter traces the transition from menageries designed to entertain to zoological parks designed to educate, and finally to centers of research, breeding and preservation of endangered species. Zoos that once competed to be the only park to display an exotic species now share research and experience in caring for endangered animals, including environment, nutrition, health, behavior, and even the animals themselves. Cooperative Species Survival Plans govern which animals go to what zoos and breed with which animals to ensure genetic diversity. Complex behavioral training prepares animals for reintroduction to their natural environment, but deeper understanding of the genomes of endangered species has raised questions about whether zoo animals reintroduced to the wild are the same as the animals earlier taken from their natural environments. Despite challenges, most people now believe the primary purposes of zoos are education and conservation of endangered species.

Keywords:   recreation, informal education, conservation, endangered species, William Temple Hornaday, Philadelphia Zoo, National Zoological Park, Bronx Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Species Survival Plan

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