It has been a difficult few weeks for anyone who works in zoos as they have made headlines in the UK and Europe and not for the right reasons, as questions are inevitably asked about whether there is still a need to keep animals in captivity for the public’s entertainment.
Dr Sharon Redrobe says, ”From where I stand, the reality is that zoos like Twycross are living sanctuaries, playing a vital role in conservation, as many species across the world face an extinction crisis in the wild. By providing a symbolic “ark”, not only do zoos take care of endangered animals, but they participate in carefully coordinated, international breeding programmes. This vital work ensures that there are genetically healthy, self-sustaining populations, to provide the potential to rewild these species in the future. Surely that’s a legacy we owe to our children and to the generations to come?
“Research is also a key element of what we do – not only to ensure the highest standards of welfare, but to build our knowledge and understanding of animal biology and ecology. We strive to provide an environment that closely mirrors natural habitats, so that the animals in our care enjoy a life as close to the wild as possible, whether that is through intelligent enclosure design or enrichment activities, aimed at encouraging ‘wild behaviour’ – in a good way!
“Many people will not realise that Twycross Zoo also contributes to conservation in the wild and over the last decade has supported over 55 conservation and welfare projects in many different countries around the world, from safeguarding chimpanzees through our Ape Action Africa in Cameroon to the Cao Vit Conservation Programmes with Orang utans in Vietnam.
“Lastly zoos also play a vital role in education and public engagement, raising awareness about the threats wildlife face in the wild and highlighting what each of us can do to help. Modern technology allows us to view wildlife and habitats on our iPhones and TV screens, without setting foot outside the house, but this is simply not the same as seeing a real animal up close and in the flesh. Few of us will ever have the opportunity to encounter animals in the wild, zoos provide that truly thrilling and inspiring experience.
“The bottom line is that we need to protect, invest and support good zoos if we want the natural world to survive to face the future.”