Posted by Celia Clark on Mar 25, 2013
Today two giant pandas arrive in Toronto from China. Federal Express are transporting Da Mao and Er Shun from Chengdu in China and have created a lot of hype and public relations around this event. They held a competition for schools in Ontario – the winners get to greet the pandas when they arrive at the airport today.
Our local Little Country School has 24 students up to Grade 3 and they submitted a video of the song they would sing. They garnered an astonishing 838 votes; the winning school has 1100 students and got over 1000 votes. The children were naturally very disappointed as they put a lot of effort into their submission; of course, learning to deal with disappointment is one of life’s most important lessons and the children are to be congratulated for their efforts.
All this publicity got us thinking about the role of zoos in today’s society. Do they play a vital role in conservation and education, or are they yet another example of humans using animals for their own gratification? Most of us will never get the chance to see exotic animals in the wild, but does that justify capturing wild animals and depriving them of their freedom?
At Digital Frog, we believe that people will not care about an environment they do not understand, but are zoos the best way to educate our children and ourselves about the natural world. Will we learn more by lining up to catch a glimpse of Da Mao and Er Shun in Toronto Zoo or by watching a National Geographic video of these animals in the wild?
Humans are depriving these animals of their natural habitat at an alarming rate, so are zoos playing a vital role is saving some animals from extinction? Because giant pandas are so elusive and live in generally inaccessible places, biologists can learn much more by studying them in zoos. According to the National Geographic, it is estimated that only 1000 giant pandas survive in the wild and maybe 100 in zoos. So maybe breeding in captivity is the pandas’ only hope of survival? But how easy will it be to rehabilitate zoo-bred animals?
PETA’s (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) stance is uncompromising:
“PETA opposes zoos because cages and cramped enclosures at zoos deprive animals of the opportunity to satisfy their most basic needs. The zoo community regards the animals it keeps as commodities, and animals are regularly bought, sold, borrowed, and traded without any regard for established relationships. Zoos breed animals because the presence of babies draws zoo visitors and boosts revenue. But the animals’ fate is often bleak once they outgrow their “cuteness.” And some zoos still import animals from the wild.”
CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) states:
“CAZA member zoos and aquariums are dedicated to the highest standards of animal care. They nurture, protect and care for more than 100,000 animals representing over 2000 species. Often these animals are the last representatives of endangered species.”
Fedex published this picture on Facebook this morning with the comment “Da Mao seems to be enjoying the flight and loves the in-flight catering!”
What do YOU think?