Many zoos try to call attention to many of those problems through informative exhibits, and raise money to be donated to wildlife preservation. Whether or not the zoo-going public is distracted would depend on the attention span of the individual.
Living near DC, I can only speak for the National Zoo, run by the Smithsonian Institution. Not only do all of their displays give some information about the threatened/endangered status of the species, but they run a preserve for endangered animals, not open to the public, that studies these species and works on plans for conservation. They have started numerous programs around the world to protect the species they feature. I believe that children who are able to go to a reputable, well-managed zoo will have a better understanding of and respect for wildlife, and may even find an animal that they love and want to protect. Although the living conditions in the zoo are probably never ideal for most of the animals there, if it does it’s job right, the zoo can serve the greater good of promoting conservation.
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