There are many facets to conservation. When looked up in the dictionary, the general gist is to conserve and preserve, to protect and prevent injury, decay, waste and loss. There are as many opinions on the subject as there are definitions. I write today, to offer an insight to my own opinion, my way of thinking, on the subject of zoos and wildlife preserves. When I sit down and really think about it, these facilities are quite valuable to the quest of conservation. They play an integral role in presenting to the public the beauty and mystery of species that many wouldn’t ever be able to see.
When we talk of wildlife conservation, for instance, we are asking for the public to empathize with a cause that doesn’t directly affect them, that they can’t actually see, that has no bearing in their lives whatsoever. People require visual stimuli in cases like this, whether it be from written articles with photographic support, videos and television documentaries, or the local zoo or wildlife preserve. When people can personally interact with the stimuli it enhances the effect.
Now, I am not talking about all zoos. There are some that are only out for the almighty dollar, that don’t care for the animals properly and mistreat them horrifically. Those are abominations and should be closed down as they are discovered. However, there are some good ones, facilities that are dedicated to conservation on many different levels, knowing they are all connected in some way, shape or form; ones that are there for rehabilitation of the injured, sick or displaced first and foremost and get them returned to the wild if possible, and housing and caring for them if not. There are those with breeding programs for endangered species, or species close to endangerment. Without these programs, certain animals could be Forevermore Lost.
These facilities also have educational programs, fundraising events, and special exhibits and attractions all geared towards increasing public awareness. As a child I can remember going to Sea World. If it had not been for the attractions there, I would have never been exposed to sea life. Moving up here, the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium was, and continues to be, a place of constant pleasure and amazement. I remember having an Animal Science class in high school and getting a behind the scenes tour of the entire facility. That stuck with me through the years and I have really enjoyed watching it grow and change, getting better always.
Zoos and wildlife preserves open many minds and doors of opportunity. Children and adults can see firsthand how different creatures care for their young, how it’s not all that different from us caring for our own. They can experience the comical antics of some species that just love to have fun. People can observe other species that aren’t indigenous to our area, and learn some amazing new facts. Then there are those with aquariums that offer a window into a world that, unless you get trained to dive, very few would have the privilege to otherwise view. I can also say, for photographers aspiring to catch wildlife images in natural settings, a good place to practice is the zoo. You have a more confined and controlled atmosphere in which to capture your subject and figure out what settings are needed, and while learning you don’t have the added stress of your personal safety or that of the animal.
Where do I come into this, you might ask? Well, as a photographer, an animal lover, and a conservationist, I see all the wonder and greatness that can come from these facilities. Therefore, I have created a page in my portfolio specifically dedicated to animals I have had the honor to photograph in zoos and wildlife preserves. Please take a look, and enjoy these beautiful images. Remember, conservation starts within; within your heart, within your mind; within your home.
Love and Light to all…