Take a trip to the zoo in July
What: When the first U.S. zoo opened in Philadelphia in 1874, the public had a new opportunity to view the exotic and unique animals many had only heard about. While at first the animals were considered only a spectacle, zoos soon began to foster an appreciation and curiosity about animals. Modern zoos are a significant part of many animal conservation efforts, and they are still the first places many young children learn about the variety of animal life and the importance of protecting animals. Recognize how far zoos have come in their history and support efforts to conserve wildlife on the 138th anniversary of the Philadelphia Zoo’s opening on July 1.
Background: The Philadelphia Zoo was the first to open in the U.S., welcoming the public on July 1, 1874. It took 15 years to open, delayed due to the Civil War. The zoo became a major attraction, and its 813 animals and expansive Victorian-style botanical garden brought in about 228,000 visitors in its first year. However, the zoo was far from modern standards. Small cages provided a view of creatures, but no stimulation for the animals inside. In the 138 years since the Philadelphia Zoo opened, zoos have become centers for conservation, animal study and education. Many zoos are focusing on ways to improve life in captivity for animals, while also working in conjunction with wild preserves to better protect animals in their natural habitat.
Story Pitch: Zoos throughout the U.S. have an opportunity to promote during the anniversary of the first American zoo. They will want to show the evolution of their own zoo since it opened, which underscores the vital role research and collaboration have in improving zoos and artificial habitats. Zoos can also promote their educational efforts and outreach programs with children. While zoos play an important role in animal protection, many are turning their focus to assisting animals in their natural homes through re-introduction and habitat protection. Zoos are able to discuss the role they play in these efforts, as well as what role they expect to play in the future. Conservation groups have an excellent chance to gain support for their cause by talking about how they work with zoos and how zoos have helped them find more success in protecting animals. As a popular tourist destination, businesses in the travel industry have an opportunity to promote themselves around nearby zoos, aquariums and other animal destinations.
Story Hook: The birth of a cute new baby animal at a nearby zoo often attracts a great deal of publicity and attention. However, surrounding these zoo newborns is a complex set of issues. While captive breeding programs protect wild animals from capture and dangerous transport, it can also limit genetic diversity in zoo populations. Extremely endangered animals may be brought back from the brink of extinction through zoo breeding, but nonthreatened species may be bred into surplus. What are the specific aims of breeding programs in zoos? Where are they finding success, and how are zoos working together to lessen problems caused by captive breeding? Consider the following as you make your pitch:
- What sort of educational programs are most helpful to children? What zoos are doing a good job providing information to its visitors?
- How can a visitor make sure a zoo is accredited and protecting the welfare of its animals?
- Many zoos also have botanical gardens, green space, off-hour events, and even fine dining. Do nearby zoos have these attractions?
- How should visitors act around animals? How do zoos reduce the stress on animals that can be caused by visitors?
Tips: A zoo worker, including an educator or veterinarian, is a great contact to speak about how animals are cared for at a zoo and what goes on behind the scenes. Someone working in conservation can discuss how zoos support their cause.
American Association of Zoo Keepers
Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Wildlife Conservation Society
–Researched, compiled & written by Kristina Elliott
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