I have been professionally involved with zoos for more than 40 years (director of Seattle's Zoo and of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) and am increasingly of the view that thanks in large part to the AZA and to the rise of marketers in their decision making processes, zoos are becoming increasingly irrelevant, and are heading into a cul de sac of their own making.
The vitriolic way they have responded to the emergence of the two superb Elephant Sanctuaries in Tennessee and California is clear evidence of the depth of their lack of ethics. Sadly, we need some sort of public natural history institution to help encourage our urban and suburban citizenry to develop greater respect for and appreciation of Nature, but zoos — which have such potential in this regard — are moving further and further away from achieving this.
For the past ten years I have focused on the needs of captive elephants, and based upon what I have learned, especially from researchers of wild elephant behaviors and social structures, I am strongly convinced that urban zoos can not begin to meet the complex needs of these extremely intelligent and naturally vigorous beings.
It is a great encouragement to read the Weekly's Editorial. Just a decade ago something like this would never have been published. Progress is definitely being made. The zoo, however, are not only fighting it, but walking backwards.
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