Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years work within zoos.
Is It A Zoo?
In its broadest terms a zoo or zoological garden is any collection of wild animals which is held in captivity (not in the wild).
You can dress this up however you like and call it a Conservation Centre, EcoPark, Wildlife Park, The Ark, Butterfly Freedom Centre, Monkey World, Ape Paradise, Wildlife Centre, Jungle World, Aspidestra Gardens, Wild Animal Park, Safari Park, Wildlife Refuge or Animal Sanctuary. Even Aquariums, Oceanariums, Dolphinariums, Bird Parks are Zoos. It matters not in the remotest as to whether entry is free because if they are holding wild animals captive then they are zoos. Even so called Hedgehog Hospitals could be termed zoos if they maintain and do not release their charges. The so called 'Farm Parks' quickly became zoos when they thought to include a few exotic animals as well.
A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet
Some Zoos have simply chosen a different name for themselves or had it forced upon them. For some it may denote the larger part of its work as in the case of Jersey Zoo which changed its name and is now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. For others though there is sometimes a deliberate play on words put in place to foster confusion and misunderstanding. This is the use of the words like Sanctuary, Wildlife Park and Wild Animal Park.
This is because there are actual real genuine 'wild' areas which have the same names. Government designated areas, sometimes of several thousand hectares set aside for 'wildlife' (real wild, wild animals) in particular. Kruger National Park is often termed a 'Wildlife Park' and yet it contains only genuinely wild animals roaming an area half the size of the Netherlands. Your so called 'sanctuary' down the road or in 200 acres in the Catskills contains only captive animals and so is therefore it is a zoo. African animals held captive in an African 'Sanctuary' are no diffferent. They are in a zoo!
The genuinely ignorant are often happy to proclaim "I don't like zoos but I like Wild Animal Parks." (or similar name).
Captive animals are captive. Their movements are restricted, their diets controlled, their health monitored, they are 'zoo' animals.
In the world of titles and names there is no 'one is better than the other'. It comes down to professionalism and quality of care. It has got nothing to do with whether it is called a zoo or a sanctuary. It has got nothing to do with how much land there is or how big the cages are. There are bad zoos and bad sanctuaries and bad whateveryouliketocallits.
Consider this. A good zoo is far more likely to be involved with 'return to the wild' than a bad rescue centre or sanctuary. Good zoos have been rescuing animals and returning them to the wild since the beginning. Good zoos have been doing it even it before it became a long term aim of zoo breeding programmes. They were, and still are doing it, behind the scenes, at their own expense, without jumping up and down with that sanctamonious 'holier than thou' attitude.
At the same time many so called 'sanctuaries' and 'rescue centres' hold hands with the anti-zoo fraternity because they don't consider themselves to be zoos. They are! And some of them are bad zoos.
There is a certain insanity creeping into the name game when proposals are put forward for a zoo to change to become a 'Rescue Zoo'. A what? To me such a proposal can mean only one of two things. Either the proposer has not the faintest inkling of what a good zoo is about or they live in cloud cuckoo land. There seems to be this absolutely ignorant concept that you cannot rescue something TO a zoo but only FROM a zoo so you must create something different. Whilst all along the work of the good zoo has been and still is 'rescue' albeit, in the main, long term rescue of whole species rather than indviduals.
The anti-zoo fraternity are on a pogromesque mission to completely wipe out something they refuse to even try to understand.
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