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Sustaining Wildlife Populations in Human Care: An Existential Value Proposition for Zoos

Sustaining Wildlife Populations in Human Care: An Existential Value Proposition for Zoos

Chapter:
(p.313) Chapter Twenty-Five Sustaining Wildlife Populations in Human Care: An Existential Value Proposition for Zoos
Source:
The Ark and Beyond
Author(s):
Steven L. MonfortCatherine A. Christen
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226538631.003.0026

This chapter opens with a historical review of choices made by late twentieth-century accredited zoos impelled by the mounting biodiversity crisis, to take as their existential value proposition responsibility for sustaining the wildlife populations in their care. It then posits that today’s zoos are themselves unsustainable, providing exemplary animal care and management yet failing to approach any species sustainability benchmarks, an industry at risk of losing control of its supply chain and product pipeline. To survive long-term as enterprises and conservation centers, zoos must embrace the superficially jarring concordance between their business need for steady supplies of the animals that yield attendance and revenue and their ethical imperative to ensure long-term genetic and demographic sustainability of managed populations of critically endangered wildlife species. Transformative steps for galvanizing the industry to lasting sustainability gains in-situ and ex-situ include: massive capital investment in producing and deploying new zoo science knowledge and applied management expertise; large-scale building of improved facilities and flexible sustainability space; and unremitting collaboration with other conservation institutions and specialties. Failure to act will drive public disaffection toward zoos. Embracing concerted action affords the zoo industry unprecedented opportunity to inhabit a unique, invaluable conservation niche.

Keywords:   biodiversity crisis, wildlife populations, value proposition, supply chain, sustainability, genetic sustainability, sustainability space, conservation center, zoo industry, endangered species

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