Discussion in 'Central & South America - General' started by carlos55, 6 Nov 2016.
Important article in ALPZA blog on media perception of zoos. En español.
Very interesting , thanks for sharing
Could you summarize the gist of the article for the non-spanish speaking population?
The article is written by a Brazilian zoo keeper who is deeply concerned about the way that zoos within the country (And wider Latin America) are being attacked and criticised and particularly via social media. Nevertheless , ultimately the fact that people are reviewing zoos online even if these are negative is actually (according to the author) something of a cloud with a silver lining as these reviews give zoos the opportunity to improve in terms of communication / outreach with the public.
In spite of the good that this brings the author warns that no zoo is safe and even the better ones (or those that try to distinguish themselves as bioparks , aquariums , wildlife parks and conservation centres and refuse the label "zoo") are vulnerable to being attacked and facing a threat of closure due to erroneous views influencing political parties and decision making (basically animal rights people).
The author expresses the view that there are some institutions which try to escape the label of "zoo" by calling themselves "sanctuaries" and verbally attack zoos at the same time but this is ultimately just semantics because they too keep wild animals in captivity. This he says means only that they are deceiving themselves and being hypocritical because often the conditions in which they are run and their "contribution" to conservation are actually inferior to those of zoos which accept the term ( totally agree... **cough** Sorocaba Great ape sanctuary **cough**).
He then states that zoos (and he includes those who avoid the term in this category) necessarily must begin to change public perception by endeavouring to work together strategically in order to confront this problem. He then proceeds to discuss a meeting which took place over a period of 5 to 6 days in the format of a course / workshop by the ALPZA organization which was formed by representatives of the zoo world from primarily five Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Chile).
One of the first objectives of this meeting was to analyse the way that zoos receive coverage in the media and whether this is beneficial or not to the long term status and mission of zoos. For this purpose reports from over 20 National newspapers on zoos, from the four countries of origin of the ALPZA members were subjected to analysis.
Out of 466 newspaper reports what emerged was this picture :
1. Zoo directors and personnell do have a visible voice/ platform in the media.
2. Zoo directors/ personnell were only interviewed in approximately 38 % of the articles.
3. Detractors of zoos were only interviewed personally in approximately 11% of the articles.
However, a noticeable problem was that according to the analysis in the last 5 or 6 months the subject of zoos in the media was one that had an overwhelmingly negative context in most of the articles analysed. This did not come as a suprise as it appears that the media tends to focus predominately on negative stories (out of conjecture or personal opinion pieces) and in spinning negative stories which did not resemble the actual conditions or situation of most zoos within the region.
A great many of the articles focused on the deaths of animals which were categorized as being signs that zoos were places of suffering, death, management was criticized for keep animals under questionable welfare conditions and that this posed a safety risk to human visitors. Other articles were about the births of baby animals were soon twisted by animal rights activists from positive stories into narratives of tragedy ("born into a life of imprisonment" type thing).
The negatitivity of these articles was consistent and pervasive even though many of the animals mentioned had actually just died from old age related illnesses/ natural causes and the animals born had been endangered species and essentially a cause for celebration. Conversely, however, in other articles that were analysed the birth of animals accounted for a degree of positive perceptions of zoos and being good news.
Sadly the author mentions that there were only 19 articles that explicitly mentioned the contribution of zoos to conservation out of the 466 articles analysed. Similarly there were only two articles that mentioned the role of zoos in rescuing wildlife from the illegal wildlife trade and in treating /rehabilitating injured wildlife / releasing back into the wild. Of the 466 articles that were subjected to analysis none even mentioned the role of zoos in education (environmental education or community based education) programs.
Approximately 50 articles centred around perceived negative welfare issues of animals kept in zoos and only 2 mentioned animal welfare in zoos within a positive context of environmental enrichment carried out. International/ foreign zoos that were covered in articles, such as those of North America and Europe, were generally rated far higher and the tone was far more positive and less critical than that used for zoos in Latin America.
The author concludes from this analysis that there is an urgent need for Latin American zoos to better communicate by speaking out within the media and helping to contextualise the narrative. This he affirms is an imperative for the situation to improve.
Some findings apply to America and Britain as well.
For example, zoos record growing attendance, however quite regularly there are media articles asking 'if zoos had their day'. Polls show that big majority of the public view zoos as positive, but media often cliam zoos are 'controversial'. Media regularly omit contribution of zoos to conservation in the wild etc.
It looks like mainland European press is more close to reality. For example German press portrays zoos usually positively.
Yes , I agree , negative perceptions of zoos are similar in most parts of the world but the consequences of this differ widely from region to region. I tend to think that most zoos in Europe and North America are not at any imminent risk due to negative public perceptions.
In contrast , the situation is markedly difficult in Latin America given the fact that zoos in the region are largely owned, funded and run/ managed by either federal or city governments or municipalities (very rarely privately).
This means that the pressure exerted on these institutions by opposition groups such as Animal rights activists can lead to negative outcomes in influencing politics /policy making terms of cuts to funding and even closures.
In this sense it wouldn't (IMO) be much of an exageration to state that misinformed animal rights activists and their largely bullsh*t campaigns do actually represent a considerable existential risk to the future of zoos (and ex-situ conservation) in the region.
For a group of people faced with an outdated municipal zoo, I would suggest the following plan (based on redeveloping of Warsaw Zoo by foundation Panda):
- get to know the zoo direction and get access to the city officials
- start an independent foundation of zoo supporters
- select 1-3 most outdated exhibits
- check if animals can be sent elsewhere (almost certainly not, this would be probably considered before)
- get a rough plan for cost and space of modern exhibits replacing these ones, especially if they are interesting for visitors and likely to raise interest in the zoo
- lobby private sponsors
- lobby in the city council (maybe via media articles) to get budget for the zoo redevelopment
- build new exhibits
- select 1-3 further exhibits and so on.
What activists usually do is criticising the zoo or calling for closure. This solves nothing. An average zoo cannot be closed, because there is usually no place to send animals, and an average zoo has tens of individuals of the long-lived species. Any zoo does fill an educational role, even limited, and has a strong base of local support. So calling for the zoo closure results in the worst possible oucome, like Barcelona zoo - animals keep suffering in outdated exhibits, nothing changes on the ground, and activists do the talk not the work.
The thing is most of the municipal zoos are not really "outdated" as such but simply lack sufficient funding and most have already done the steps that you outline / suggest multiple times sometimes resulting in improvements and sometimes to no avail.
It goes without saying that these institutions should not be "closed down" as the Animal rights fanatics demand (based on their own conjecture and nonsense ideology) because nearly all of them have a truly enormous potential to contribute to the ex-situ conservation of endangered species in a region which is being hard hit (and will continue to be) by biodiversity loss.
I agree with the premise of the article that the key to combating the ideology of Animal rights groups is to seize/challenge the narrative and confront the bias. This must be done through engaging with the media and by focusing heavily on outreach and educating the public how necessary zoos really are to mitigating biodiversity loss in Latin America.
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