Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why the Evolving Zoo?

Philadelphia Zoo Welcome Sign by Derek Ramsey via Wikipedia
Before we get started, it's important to know where zoos have come from. Stacey Tarpley at Designing Zoos has a great overview of zoo design history A Quick Lesson in Zoo Design History. For a comprehensive history of zoos and aquariums "Zoo and Aquarium History: Ancient Animal Collections To Zoological Gardens" is a very in depth book.

The key historical points for this conversation are:

  • Zoos and aquariums have a long history with the first "zoos" being created around 3000 BC. Aquariums are newer with the London Zoo open the first public aquarium in 1853.
  • Zoos started as Menageries for the sole purpose of displaying exotic animals for the pleasure of their guests.
  • The primary purpose of most zoos throughout history was as a spectacle to show the wealth and power of the zoo's owner. Zoos were run and designed in a way to maximize the spectacle value with little thought put to the welfare of the animals or any educational or conservation outcomes.
  • It is still fairly recent in the history of zoos that a lot of focus has been put on conservation and education. It wasn’t until the 1960s and later that zoos in the U.S. started to put a greater focus on conservation, ecology, and education as their primary mission. As a data point the Species Survival Plan (SSP) was established in 1981, just 30 years ago.
Zoos and aquariums have made great strides in furthering conservation and education, but it is still fairly early in the overall maturation process of zoos becoming centers for education and conservation. Currently, there is a lot of change happening in the world, this change creates a lot of new opportunities but also a lot of new risks. Zoos will have to evolve even faster than they have in the past to meet these new challenges.

In this blog we'll be exploring many aspects of zoos and aquariums with the following goals in mind:

  • Increasing conservation behavior.
  • Increasing knowledge, appreciation, and the connection with the natural world.
  • Increasing "profitability".
Hope you enjoy the blog and will join in the conversations.
--James

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