DEFINING AND MEASURING BIODIVERSITY

Overview

In response to the variable effects of conservation efforts and loss of biodiversity, zoos began to turn their attention to the conservation of endangered species and wildlife in the 1970s and 1980s. Supporting conservation efforts became an important goal for the modern zoo. A major milestone towards this goal was the Convention on Biodiversity which was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. As the modern zoo continues to focus its efforts towards conservation, it has been seen by many as a sort of “Noah’s Ark,” primarily focused on conserving the precious few endangered species. Unfortunately, genetic, ecosystem and economic issues have created challenges for the conservation model of the modern zoo. Read the following articles that expand on the conservation efforts of zoos and their use of technology towards this goal.

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Readings

Keulartz, J. (2015). Captivity for conservation? Zoos at a crossroads. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics.

Kobilinsky, D. (2016). New live cam technology might help conservation. Accessed August 13, 2016, at http://wildlife.org/new-live-cam-technology-might-help-conservation/.

Genetics

Research has shown that zoos currently hold about 15% of the endangered land animals in captivity. There remains a continual struggle to breed these animals due to low numbers. A zoo’s ability to maintain enough genetic variability among individual species is impossible and space limitations prevent expansion to allow the influx of more animals.

Economics

The secondary goal for many zoos, that of reintroduction to the wild, also faces challenges due to the costs involved, from financial to ecological. Animals living in captivity often lose the necessary skills to survive in the wild once released.

Ecosystems

Lastly, the ecosystems into which the captive animals are eventually released are constantly changing. Many factors may have affected their previous habitat, preventing the animal’s chance at a successful re-introduction to the wild.

Education and Technology

Technology and education have also been identified as important components in maintaining the biodiversity of the natural world. Zoos are in a unique position to educate the public about conservation issues and they are continually looking for ways to convey this information to visitors. The Metro Richmond Zoo uses video cam technology to encourage cheetah conservation by streaming live footage of cheetah litters online. Viewers witness the day-to-day lives of the cheetah cubs without human interference or disturbance.

Answer the following questions in complete sentences using an essay format. See the SLP Assignment Expectations for further directions on formatting and organization.

Assignment Directions:

Discuss how zoos have evolved over the past 50 years to become conservation centers. Incorporate the role of zoos in educating the public into your response.
Discuss some of the economic pressures faced by zoos—namely space, capacity, and resources—that can affect their conservation efforts.
How does a species get on the Endangered Species List?
Take a virtual trip to the zoo using one of the links below and observe at least one of the endangered species.
Take a Virtual Visit to the Zoo

You can take a virtual visit to the zoo any day of the week by tuning into any of the following live webcams, which feature many endangered animals. The World Wildlife Fund lists many of these animals as priority species.

Watch elephants at the Smithsonian Zoo on the elephant cam:
The Houston Zoo has some of the best webcams of gorillas, rhinos, elephants, flamingos, and giraffes here: http://www.houstonzoo.org/meet-the-animals/animal-webcams/
The Reid Park Zoo in Arizona has webcams of lions, giraffes, elephants, lemurs, grizzly bears, and flamingos here: http://reidparkzoo.org/cameras/elephant-cam/
See pandas, elephants, apes or polar bears (the elephant has the most informative cam view) at the San Diego Zoo
Pick an animal webcam of your choice
Make your own ethogram. An ethogram is a graph or chart of animal behavior that is used to compare certain behaviors that can be observed while animals are in captivity. Choose one animal from the webcam links above and observe its behavior at several different times during the day or over the course of several days. Take notes on its behavior using the ethnogram (include this chart in your essay). Choose 4 or 5 different time points (on the hour or half hour, it does not need to be the same day or the exact time point).
Give your chart a title and include it in your essay.

Ethogram Document

Did your perception of the species you watched change as a result of seeing it on the webcam? Why or why not?
Do you believe technology has a positive influence on people’s feelings toward wildlife and conservation? Why or why not?
SLP Assignment Expectations:
Organize this essay assignment using subtitles that summarize the topic from each question above.

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