I have spent a lot of time with fellow environmentalists, and this is an ongoing discussion. Obviously the roadside zoos of Florida, or in developing countries, are not ecofriendly in that they are most likely destroying the animals they are showcasing by poor treatment and diet. In a perfect world, a zoo like the San Diego Wild Animal Park or San Diego Zoo, with its native vegetation, thoughtfully laid out exhibit areas, and constant focus on education and conservation throughout, is very eco-friendly. Properly managed zoos will not only work to conserve the species in the wild through both captive breeding and habitat preservation efforts, but will also use recycled water for irrigation, energy-efficient lighting, native plant species, etc. I think it is fair to say that today’s zoos, at least in developed countries, are much more conservation-minded than in the past. And again, the primary purpose of a zoo is to preserve animal species through conservation and education; sadly, in many cases zoos are the last great hope of some of these.
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