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Do Elephants Belong In Zoos? Extinction Policy Under Scrutiny

Long-time Slashdot reader retroworks writes: In “Zoos Called It a ‘Rescue.’ But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?” New York Times reporter Charles Siebert does much to dispel the idea that zoos are a solution to extinction. In the first half of the article, the cruelty of zoos is in focus. “Neuroimaging has shown that elephants possess in their cerebral cortex the same elements of neural wiring we long thought exclusive to us, including spindle and pyramidal neurons, associated with higher cognitive functions like self-recognition, social awareness and language. ”

The second half of the article questions whether any current (expensive) efforts to “save” the elephants offers anything more than window dressing. Ted Reilly [founder and executive director of a game preserve] is quoted that, “The greatest threat to wildlife in Africa today is the uncontrolled spread of human sprawl. As far as it sprawls, nature dies. And that’s the reality on the ground. It’s not the nice idea that people cook up and suggest, but that’s the reality. And in my view, an equally important threat, serious threat, is dependence on donor money. If you become dependent on donor money, you will inevitably become dictated to in terms of your policies. And your management integrity will be interfered with. And it’s not possible to be totally free of corruptive influences if you’re not financially independent.”

Does this type of reporting improve the situation, or cause despondence and abandonment of the extinction cause?

The 7,000-word article points out that 22 American zoos had already closed their elephant exhibits (or were phasing them out) by 2012 (according to a depressing study by the Seattle Times).

The New York Times adds that “an increasing awareness of nonhuman animal sentience is now compelling many to question the very existence of zoos.”


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