Monday, October 8, 2018

Phillip Elden | Zoos that Made a Difference

Phillip Elden
People often mistakenly believe that these exist solely to make a profit. Conservationist Phillip Elden says nothing could be further from the truth and that zoos make more than money...they make a difference in the lives of the animals they showcase.

The most prolific way zoos impact animal species is by saving endangered breeds from extinction. At the Phoenix Zoo, for example, the Arabian Oryx, a once hunted and extinct creature, was revitalized thanks to captive-bred animals and tireless efforts put forth by zoo staff and global conservationist. Today, there are more than 1000 this captivating creature, which was upgraded from extinct to endangered and then to threatened, which is an impressive feat for an animal thought lost forever.

Phillip Elden also uses the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago as a shining example of how zoos protect species. Around 40 years ago, there were only 13 Puerto Rican parrots known to exist. These avian beauties, which are particularly vulnerable during hurricane season, were on the rise with nearly 50 wild parrots in 1989. A devastating hurricane wiped out more than half the population when Lincoln Park Zoo stepped in. Now there are more than 260 Puerto Rican parrots – more than five dozen of which are out of captivity.

It isn’t just the cute and cuddly creatures that are endangered either, asserts Phillip Elden. The Columbus Zoo has played a major role in revitalizing the population of freshwater mussels. Mussels, a type of mollusk, are threatened significantly by pollution, habitat loss, and widespread invasive species. The Columbus Zoo features a massive facility dedicated specifically to prolonging the freshwater mussel population.

US zoos also play a major role in conservation efforts in other parts of the world. The Kihansi Gorge in Tanzania was once home to the previously unknown and immediately listed at-risk Kihansi spray toad. This amphibian live specifically in the spray of the gorgeous waterfall. In 2000, hundreds of these animals were sent to the United States for research and conservation. Within four years, the toad had died out in the wild but thanks to this foresight, zoo breeders have been able to begin reintroduction experiments, says Phillip Elden.