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Zoos and Sustainability: Can Zoos Go beyond Ethical Individualism to Protect Resilient Systems?

Zoos and Sustainability: Can Zoos Go beyond Ethical Individualism to Protect Resilient Systems?

Chapter:
(p.238) Chapter Nineteen Zoos and Sustainability: Can Zoos Go beyond Ethical Individualism to Protect Resilient Systems?
Source:
The Ark and Beyond
Author(s):
Bryan G. Norton
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226538631.003.0020

Since the 1990s, there has been a lively discussion of the nature and contribution of zoos to conservation, today and in the future. Zoos--originally, menageries--have evolved to have four main foci: entertainment, research, conservation, and education. While some larger zoos have established strong contributing relationships with in-situ efforts to save some of the species they exhibit and breed, the core of zoos’ contribution to conservation efforts must be educative. Zoos and aquariums have a major advantage in reaching the public: zoo clientele represents a cross-section of society and offers many opportunities to educate previously oblivious persons and create supporters of conservation. Current discussions raise ethical problems with both exhibiting and breeding captive animals, but it is noted that, following most discussion of human ethics, applications of ethics to animals has been mainly individualistic in nature. So, while zoos provide excellent opportunities to educate the public about individual animals, they face a challenge: can education regarding individual animals and their well-being support growing ethical concerns about maintaining healthy ecosystems? Zoos will be able to contribute to broader conservation goals if they integrate their ethics and their education into the broader search for a sustainability ethic.

Keywords:   zoos, zoo ethics, conservation education, individualistic ethics, resilience, sustainability ethic

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