Last week, I was looking at some photos my mother-in-law took when she was in Australia several months ago. One of the things she really wanted to do was hold a koala, so we went to Lone Pine Sanctuary (it’s local!) and she and Mr Teeny-bop held koalas and had their photos taken. Lots of other photos were also taken, such as the following one.
There were heaps of other animals there too – birds of prey, kangaroos, wombats, cassowaries, dingoes, tasmanian devils, parrots, cockatoos, galahs, lorikeets, bats, wallabies and farm animals (not sure what the farm animals were about, but anyway…), and Yankee Elv’s mom even took photos of the ugly wild scrub turkeys scratching around outside.
It was nice to go to a place where it’s not overly tourist-y (like Australia Zoo is these days), but still get to interact with all the animals. It did get me wondering though – are zoos, sanctuaries and other places like that good for the environment? I’m not going to argue about whether or not they’re good for the animals – some will say keeping animals in captivity are never good, others will say places like this provide a service to all the animals hurt on roads or displaced by deforestation. Regardless, I’m not going to debate that. What I’m interested in today is: are these places good for the environment?
With a motto like, ‘The Earth is not only for humans’, you’d think Lone Pine would be into all that eco-stuff. The Lone Pine Sanctuary website does encourage people to do environmentally friendly things like drive safely and be aware of wildlife crossing the roads, plant eucalypts as food trees for koalas and avoiding disturbing vegetation generally (but especially in National Parks). Although all of these are aimed at wildlife conservation, they are also good for the environment generally. There is no statement on the Lone Pine Sanctuary website, however, that indicates they are working towards reducing their environmental impact.
Ultimately, it seems like zoos are under the same environmental pressures as any other big business, such as:
- Water use
- Energy consumption
- Waste disposal and recycling.
As well as Taronga Zoo, some other places, like Australia Zoo and the Philadelphia Zoo, are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and potentially become carbon neutral. Chester Zoo was the first UK zoo to be awarded ISO14001s status. Other zoos are following in their footsteps. Some new campaigns that service both the environment and animals are cropping up too. Answer the Call, for example, is a mobile phone recycling program that helps save gorilla habitat.
Granted, my research has been pretty minimal, but what I’ve read seems to indicate that zoos are no worse than many big businesses, and the larger zoos are taking measures to counteract their environmental impact. Considering most zoos get visitors thinking about conservation, I think the good these zoos do likely outweighs any negative impact.