UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Lions and tigers and bears : an investigation of the state of conservation in zoos Callahan, Megan Marie


Zoos have historically been institutions focused on the recreational and entertainment value of their animal collections. However, zoos in the contemporary period have begun to embrace a conservation mindset and employ tools such as conservation projects to encourage positive impacts on species in the wild. This transition is traced from the earliest zoos to the present day and the efficacy of zoo conservation efforts is examined. There are questions regarding the zoo projects including species involved, the nature of project selection, and the stated goals. To address these questions, a species-based analysis of conservation projects at conservation-focused zoos is conducted. Initially, pressures involving zoos’ operating conditions and their conservation practices are reviewed to highlight the challenges faced by zoos. Secondly, a quantitative analysis of the species involved in conservation projects is undertaken. Statistics related to the animals contained within the projects are then compared with animal threat levels as outlined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. A preference for species in the following order was found: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and terrestrial invertebrates. Additional information is gathered by personal interviews with the zoos profiled. This allows for a more comprehensive discussion of pressures where business concerns and protecting wildlife must be managed simultaneously. Specific creative approaches to projects and additional strategies to further impact conservation are subsequently explored.

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