Why zoos matter
One common thread in my interactions with our audiences is that many people believe that zoos exist to entertain an audience. And while we hope our visitors do have a great time while they’re here, entertainment is not our purpose. Our purpose is a vision.
Zoo Atlanta exists because we envision a world where humans and wildlife flourish together. In order for the world to eventually get there, a few things have to happen.
One thing that has to happen in order for Zoo Atlanta to move closer to a flourishing, diverse world is education. We all have to be aware of the struggles that our planet and all of the living things that share it are facing. We have to understand how our actions contribute to those struggles, and we have to identify and implement strategies to combat those struggles on both large and small scales. We also have to understand that we are all interconnected. One ecosystem drastically changing or breaking down entirely impacts the global ecosystem that we all live in. Education is the best way we know how to build the connections between the wildlife here at the Zoo and the struggles and strategies that impact their wild counterparts and the ecosystems they call home. And let’s face it, if we aren’t engaged, we can’t be educated, because it’s very hard to listen when we’re bored.
We at the Zoo have to practice what we preach by being good stewards of everything in our care. Be it the ground that we occupy, our animals, the materials we use, etc., we have to care for it well. By investing our resources wisely, we are able to support research and conservation efforts worldwide. Sometimes this looks like partnerships with organizations such as Conservation South Luangwa or Vulpro. Other times it looks like raising hatchling diamondback terrapins for a year before sending them back to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for release back into the wild. Still other times, it looks like working with university students to lead social and biomechanical research projects alongside our animal care and welfare teams. All of these efforts support the long-term well-being of not only Zoo Atlanta’s animal population, but also wild populations of species represented here. The more we learn about them and the more we understand their needs and behaviors, the better we can care for not only them, but their natural ecosystems and the living things they share it with.
In order to move the world into a place where humans and wildlife can flourish together, we have to protect all critical aspects of an ecosystem, particularly where the food chain is concerned. Maintaining assurance populations of endangered species supports that effort. By maintaining genetically diverse populations of at-risk, endangered, or extinct-in-the-wild species, we are in the unique position of being able to give back to an ecosystem in the event that the need arises, by reintroducing individuals from human care back into the wild.
We cannot do any of the above if our guests do not enjoy their experience. Zoo attendance helps provide the funding that makes our purpose in working towards our driving vision possible. That funding through admissions, Membership sales, and special events not only supports the daily care of the grounds and the animals, but a portion of every admission also directly benefits our conservation partners. All of that builds a community of individuals working toward the now shared vision of a world where wildlife can flourish alongside humanity. You give our voice the opportunity to be magnified through you, your home, your community, and into the wild places that Zoo Atlanta works alongside of. So thank you!
If you want to explore some of the specific ways in which you have had an impact by letting us be a part of your community, check out the links below.