EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: Zoo Who?

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Zoo Who?

April 8 is for Zoo Lovers !
and April is National Zoo and Aquarium Month
Emily Ivey of Yarn Miracle

The earliest known zoo is an Egyptian menagerie excavated in 2009. Dated to around 3500 B.C., the collection featured local wildlife: hippopotamus, crocodiles and large cats. Between 1,000 and 400 B.C. private zoos were popular with rulers in Africa, India, and China. Medieval English Kings were also fond of displaying exotic animals - the Tower of London hosted King John I's animals. The Greeks built a "school" zoo to encourage the study of plant and animal life. The first 'modern' zoo was opened in London in 1828 as the "Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society of London."

Zoological Parks in the west have experienced a transformation since the menageries of Victorian times. Modern Zoos have evolved from entertainment venues to educational facilities with a focus on ecological responsibility, conservation, animal preservation and welfare. Zoo animals live in enclosures that attempt to replicate their natural habitats. Larger zoos have the funds to provide open enclosures where animals are kept in larger areas by high fences or moats so they have more freedom of movement. The vast majority of Zoo residents these days are either born in zoos, donated pets or seized from inappropriate living conditions. When animals are removed from their environment, it is when the species is facing extinction like the California Condor or Red Wolves. As breeding programs increase numbers, animals are released to repopulate in the wild.

Zoo regulation by state and federal agencies has aided this effort. In the U.S. zoos and wildlife parks are overseen by the Department of Agriculture. Professional zookeeping societies such as the American Association of Zookeepers and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have also played a huge role in the advancement of conservation and quality animal care. Many of the associations offer accreditation for larger zoos and sponsor outreach programs for zoos that need help to improve the quality of resident animal life.

Many zoos are involved with wildlife or exotic animal rescue, providing homes to animals that were purchased by private citizens (who then discovered that monkeys and big cats don't make great pets) or native animals found in adverse conditions.

Zoos educate, raise money for conservation, develop tracking technology for wild populations, conduct research, advance veterinary medicine, and advance animal handling techniques. Zoos can provide valuable and practical information that may be difficult or impossible to gather in the wild. And they manage to do all of this and provide visitors with the unique experience of observing animals seen only in books. That kind of contact can foster a lifelong love and respect for species of all kinds. This world can use all the animal lovers it can get.

EFA recognizes the efforts of zoos who are working towards species and habitat preservation, but in contrast to the good that a zoo focused on enriched environments and individual animal welfare can do, there is still an opposite extreme. "Roadside zoos" generally exist solely for commercial purposes. They are unregulated and notorious for neglect and cruelty. If you should come across such a situation, please act as you would any time you suspect mistreatment: contact your state wildlife authorities or other animal welfare group. The local police or sheriff's department should be able to tell you who to call.

Want to Learn More?


  1. Thanks Emily !

    EFA does indeed want to recognize the efforts of zoos that have an active animal rescue program... preserving their life when better alternatives are not possible... Of course, EFA does not promote zoos that exploit animals for commercial purposes.

  2. An animal's best interest is in the zoo's best interest too! Many many zoo's are not-for-profit and don't receive any kind of government support. They all still rely on ticket sales, memberships and donations to keep running. Nobody wants to visit a zoo if the creatures seem unhappy or not well cared for.

    If you are looking for a great zoo experience, do your homework first! Check up on the organization to see what accreditation they hold, their animal welfare policies and if they are involved in any outreach programs to help other zoos improve their programs before lending them your support.

  3. Personally, I choose to stay away from zoos. I appreciate the work of genuine rescues and sanctuaries run for the purpose of helping animals, but in most cases, they do not allow the general public in as a money making venture because they choose to keep the focus on the animals' welfare, because once the interest slips from being a rescue to raising money via ticket fees, it's tempting to spend more time making sure the animals are visible to the public than it is to meet the animals' needs. Crowds can be rowdy, are drawn to babies rather than seniors, leading the the breeding of species that are more popular with the crowds than are actually needed to repopulate the wild. Even among the zoo animals bred who are threatened species, an extremely small number are actually introduced into the wild. "Excess" animals are far more likely to be sold, often to circuses, roadside zoos, or even canned hunting operations.
    The research done in zoos is usually done to find better ways to keep animals on display in captivity, rather than to help wild populations. A popular research topic currently is a strain of herpes that is killing Asian elephants in zoos. This is a disease *caused* by zoos and elephant acts, since it originated as a benign disease in African Elephants that is passed to Asian elephants through close contact. These two species would never cross paths in the wild. Bringing them together in zoos and circuses is the culprit behind its deadly outcome. If we didn't bring these animals together in zoos and such, the problem wouldn't exist.
    Ultimately, zoos provide entertainment, not education. Very little information is actually passed to the visitors and certainly with IMAX and HD video, the easy access to books and other forms of information, it's hard to justify keeping animals captive for a lifetime, just to be glanced at by passing throngs.
    No matter what good intentions we have in making their habitats *look* like their native ones, we simply can't provide a comparable experience for animals who travel miles every day in the wild. No matter if they're born in captivity or not, these animals are not pets, nor are they domesticated, they are wild animals. Elephants, for example, live to the median age of 16.9 years in zoos, vs. 56 years in wildlife preserves in their native habitat. And that's just one species.
    It's a choice every animal lover has to make for themselves, but please, make that decision carefully and with caution.

  4. I personally live rurally so the only zoo around here is the one in my 'backyard' or mountain range... that is my lifestyle preference- seeing animals in their wilderness.

    In my strong opinion- creatures such as elephants & whales, for example, absolutely do not belong in zoos ! If for whatever reason they could not remain in their habitat of origin, they need to be allowed to live in a large sanctuary area or a protected park.

    THANKS for everyone's feedback on this complex topic !

  5. That macaw is gorgeous! What a wonderful tribute to the work of the city zoo. And a very sad but true reminder of the 'fakes' out there.

  6. Excellent article! I work for an accredited, world class zoo and, unfortunately, too many people don't recognize the difference between a true zoo and a roadside atrocity. A visit to a particularly awful roadside zoo in Minocqua, Wisconsin prompted me to make a blog for conservation. Check out my article on the "zoo" and support me in taking this place down!



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