Zoo gardens as window of exploration, education and knowledge for the public
February 22nd, 2018 | Saikat Kumar Basu | No Comments
Zoological gardens or zoo gardens has a nostalgic connection to most of our lives. There are hardly any kids these days where the family has not made stop at the zoo for exploring the vibrant and divergent animal life at some point of his/her life. Zoos have strong impacts on all school going kids in knowing about mysterious animal life and behavior; and also, to appreciate the diversity of our natural world. Several schools shave programs to take students to the zoos to introduce them to the spectacular diversity of animal life, to connect the kids to the natural world outside the four walls of the classroom in a practical nature-based laboratory as well as an eye opener with opportunities of supervised exploration and gathering knowledge about our diverse natural world. Several countries include visit to zoos with various objectives at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. The basic idea however is the same; and that is to respect and appreciate the diversity of life that we often forget in the din and bustle of our busy daily life.
Private zoos across different continents were in fact first established by the existing monarchy of the land, aristocrats, noblemen, influential courtesans and rich social elites as a part of their proud and exquisite collection of wild animals, birds and reptiles. Hence credit must be given to the monarchy and other elites of the society in establishing and maintaining the first of its kind of private zoos. With democratic reforms hitting various societies; private zoos slowly transformed into public zoos keeping in pace with the evolution of human social history and the rise and popularity of democratic values. When the need and importance of modern electorate and ordinary citizens started getting recognized; private zoos slowly started transforming into public zoos.
The process was initiated in Europe and then spread to the rest of the world over time during the post colonial era. Many of these zoos were stocked with animals from different continents either by explorers and travelers or through armed campaigns during pre-colonial era; and through army personnel, adventurers, explorers, hunters and researchers during the colonial and post colonial period. The collection of live and dead animals and birds from distant continents thus started rapidly filling in the shelves and galleries of natural history museums and cages of the zoos respectively. Such global collections enriched premier zoos with spectacular diversity of life from around the planet during the classical age of exploration, adventurism and post-industrial revolution era.
However, it is important to remember that most zoos however started with a single point agenda; and that has been entertainment of the public primarily. The display of animals in the age old conventional or traditional zoos have been guided by the notion of capturing the interest of the public, to provide visiting families with an opportunity to have an enjoyable or memorable day out with their kids watching spectacular wildlife outside the confines of their homes without having the trouble to visit natural ecosystems or forests in far off lands and continents.
Zoo management has been at its infancy with very little or almost no proper care for the animals housed in congested and over crowded cages. Appropriate veterinary diagnostics and treatments as well as modern vet medications were not available for the inmates. Many precious animals, birds and reptiles died during transportation and due to lack of suitable care, proper diet and nutrition or any facilities for modern animal care. Furthermore, unhygienic condition of the cages, cross contamination, injury and diseases also took a number of animal lives in the traditional zoos of the past.
But out of this chaos and confusion, modern zoo gardens got their basic foundation laid and established over few centuries to transform into world class public zoos from their initial humble beginning as private zoos for the aristocrats. Today, modern zoos around the world have evolved into different specialized forms such as zoological parks or gardens, fresh water and marine aquariums, eco parks, animal theme parks, vivarium, reptile houses, snake parks, animal laboratories for study of animal physiology and animal behavior, aviaries, animal nurseries and hatcheries, nature interpretation centers, animal rescue and rehabilitation centers, butterfly gardens, insect gardens, open air zoo, captive breeding centers, animal education and interpretation centers to mention only a handful.
The zoos and aquariums around the world are now governed by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling, West Bengal is a member of WAZA. Otherwise, nodal central administrative units in individual country like the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) in India manage the zoo at the national level; following stringent international guidelines, protocol and procedures for zoos across the country. Zoo management has reached a new height now across the globe with respect to the management of zoo animals like housing them in artificial natural habitat like enclosures, better treatment for animals under captivity, zoo based breeding, modern veterinary treatment for sick or injured animals, catering to animal specific diet and nutrition, paying special attention to research on zoo animal physiology and behavior; and attempting to make zoo as an effective and efficient tool for public education and awareness rather than simple entertainment as in the past.
Zoos around the planet have now developed more into education and interpretation centers for wildlife, human-animal interaction platform; and for showcasing the spectacular global biodiversity. Zoos have travelled a long distance from the traditional agenda as showbiz into nature-based education hub for the public to explore and educate themselves about nature, wildlife and biodiversity; and the value of natural world in our social and economic life. Such institutions and organizations have big funding with support from the government and public to conduct captive breeding for many endangered species to be able to replenish the natural ecosystems which they represent. The evolution of modern zoos from their traditional humble beginning is an inspirational story in itself. They have slowly undergone transformation from exhibitionism into knowledge centers with high focus on conservation.
Published in: Volume 09 Issue 08
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