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Zeitgeist, PC & Zoos: how paradigma con-/define the nature of modern zoos

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Batto, 2 Jul 2016.

  1. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Hi everyone,

    I came across this very interesting article a while ago.
    Zoo Futures - Conservation
    As it addresses several aspects of critical value regarding zoos, I would recommend its lecture, as it might provide food for thought for more critical in-depth discussions regarding the very nature (and future) of zoos-something that I think seems to lack recently on Zoochat.

    One aspect mentioned in this article that I'd like to address here is the example of Pascal Gagneux, former SDZ employee, trying to address the aspect of evolution, phylogeny etc. within the visitor information system of his former employment, and the resistance to it.

    As we see a recurrence of religious conservatism worldwide, I wonder whether this will also have more and more of an impact on zoos. Will zoos be forced to delete any mentioning of evolution and its implications to please religious visitors and stakeholders? Will religious concepts and ideas be more prominent and integrated into the already prevalent entertainment character of zoos? Or will religion be left out for the sake of appealing to all parts of society?

    At the same time and over the last years, we've experienced an increasing surge of the so-called political correctness movement in more and more countries, emanating from 1st World countries, in particular the USA. Fueled by particular interest groups & in close collaboration with internet social media, its influence has already been felt by the zoo community for a while now, and is not just limited to PETA, BF or any other AR groups. The example of the giraffe euthanasia at Copenhagen Zoo or the recent gorilla incident at Cincinnati Zoo and the international subsequent (often rather emotional) public furor might be just recent major examples of what I think is a general social struggle between approaches either based on factuality or on individual emotions.

    Will zoos be compelled to avoid "triggering" individuals, offer "safe spaces", prevent "microaggressions" or have a "cultural /gender/ etc. diversity" quota to fill for their staff? Will zoo signs be scrutinized for any PC shortcomings, real or not, like in the recent Red Cross poster "scandal"?
    Red Cross apologizes for 'super racist' safety poster - CNN.com
    Will zoos in general become so "politically incorrect" that they will be closed for good, as the example of Buenos Aires shows?
    Or do you think that this is more of a temporary (mainly American) issue that zoos will have to endure and adapt to for a while until it passes, like previous social and political paradigma before?

    Looking forward to your thoughts and examples.
     
  2. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    Interesting thread Batto,

    As I believe in astrology, and not in god, big changes in the comming years are inevitable in every sphere of living. As you already mentioned, many drastic changes in countries, even in small country like R. Macedonia big changes are going on political scene, revealing big scandals of government. That's because of shifting of age of Pisces (wich lasted last 2000 years), wich was religious, traditional, to the extrovert and drastic Aquarius age (with the motto ''I already know that'', where everything is known, there are not many things that can be discovered like in Piscesian age).

    I think zoos will become more powerfull in defending their own work and collections (and rights!), will co-operate more closely and generaly will create their own zoo society. Many species will extinct from zoos because of lack of cooperated breeding and no new wild imports. The society will be divided in respect to zoos, on one side people like us who strongly support the work of zoos and love them, and on the other side those against zoos (wich only look from welfare aspects for animals, and not for conservatory value of zoos).
    Also religion will going to extinct, as fewer and fewer people are beleiving in God, even I noticed such trends in highly-religious societies in Muslim World, via facebook friends (ok only 2-3 from Egypt, Kuwait and Pakistan).

    Such things like closing zoos are doing more harm than letting zoo to function.

    Nothing special thinking from me, but I must mention that.
     
  3. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    On what (other than astrology) do you base your assumption regarding a) the "zoo society" and other positive developments in zoos and b) that religious belief will die out?

    I don't think any atheist population worldwide is reproducing at the same rate as religious groups do...
     
  4. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    Oh no this about zoo society is not astrology-based, its just my opinion or point of view. But changes are inevitable and zoos will not be immune.
    I don't think that more and more zoos will get close. They will defend their own ''rights'' to exist. At least in my country, the very-substandard zoos are already modernised to a larger scale, new zoo was open in the Eastern part of the country (ok with just handfull of animals), and there are plans for new additions in Bitola and Skopje, and in Brioni zoo in Stip (the new one).
     
  5. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    Just to link this astrological point of view with more objective things, the age of particular sign is linked to direction of earth axis toward particular side of cosmos (12 sides of cosmos representing 12 signs).

    Traditionally, Aquarius is associated with electricity, computers, flight, democracy, freedom, humanitarianism, idealism, modernization, astrology, nervous disorders, rebellion, nonconformity, philanthropy, veracity, perseverance, humanity, and irresolution

    Some usefull links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Aquarius

    When does the Age of Aquarius begin? | Human World | EarthSky

    AstrologyZone
     
  6. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    Hi Batto.

    I don't think zoos necessarily need to mention evolution. My preference is for exhibits united by an educative theme, which could be any number of things. If planning a gorilla exhibit, for example, you may choose to conceptually link the gorillas to humans (à la Leipzig) or to the Congo (à la Bronx). The former approach necessitates discussing evolution, but the latter could non-deceptively ignore it, whilst still imparting an important and coherent message. To my mind, the Congo Gorilla Forest is at its weakest where that message is diluted, eg. the evolutionarily appropriate but habitat inappropriate marmoset display.

    But, to your actual point… I question whether we are seeing a "recurrence of religious conservatism". In the US, for instance, the percentage of creationists has remained constant for decades. So rather than more zoos pandering to religion (eg. Noah's Ark Zoo Farm and the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo), I think we'll get more of the same. In other words, zoos tending to "tread lightly" in regions where openly promoting evolution could cause a public or political backlash. Whilst not a fan of mass ignorance, I can understand judiciously skirting the issue, providing the message of exhibits is designed to accommodate that.
     
  7. temp

    temp Well-Known Member

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    It's too simplistic to see the zoo world as a single group.

    For example, the so-called "religious conservatism" certainly is very strong in large parts of the world, but in some regions it is very weak with no indications that it is expanding. In my native country where evolution is broadly accepted by the vast majority of people (more than 80%), any zoo trying to distance itself from evolution while teaching creationism (e.g. "Intelligent design") would rapidly lose its credibility. Similarly, online "storms" only really matter if they hit people actually visiting/donating to the zoo. There may be plenty of people in e.g. the US that are furious about the way dolphins are kept in Chinese aquariums/zoos, but if this doesn't expand to the Chinese visitors its relevance is very limited. This is also why Cincinnati's gorilla may result in serious problems (fewer visitors, etc); the overwhelming majority of people expressing their discontent and lack of understanding of the decision were American.

    (on a somewhat related issue, I've noticed that "ordinary" people often are blissfully unaware of their own country's animal protection laws or even believe they're ahead when they are not; a simplified chart here)

    Regardless, it seems clear to me that zoos in some parts of the world, especially in the US, will be under extreme pressure in the next few decades. I know this has been discussed before and some people have disagreed, but I suspect SeaWorld's orca breeding stop only is the beginning.
    The secrecy zoos in many countries operate under when it comes to animal deaths (even if natural or putting down due to disease) will also expand, which will result in less people hearing about zoo animals dying and therefore becoming even less accepting of this part of life. Itself forcing zoos in these countries to become even more secretive. A never-ending cycle.

    The ideas of "trigger warning" and "safe space", so far largely limited to educational institutions in the US, Canada and UK, are touchy subjects that arguably deserve their own discussions. However, this is about society as a whole and perhaps beyond the scope of a zoo forum.
     
    Last edited: 3 Jul 2016
  8. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Hi Giantpanda and temp,

    thank you for your replies.

    @Giantpanda: the aspect of evolution was meant to be an example among many, even though a relevant one. Reproduction and all it entails is another "touchy" topic in this regard, may it be homosexuality in animals (think of the Bremerhaven or Central Park Zoo penguin controversy, also in regard to the reaction of the local LGBT community) or population control measurements.
    The latter is actually a good example I witnessed myself during an EAZWV workshop on the aspect of euthanasia of surplus zoo animals: while the representatives of secular countries (especially Scandinavia) saw no issue in killing surplus animals, participants from other countries (no matter whether predominantly Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu etc.) where religion was still playing an important social (and even political) role described the resistance they face when addressing this issue with the local public also in regard to prevalent religious faith.
    Or as an Iranian veterinarian put it: "If the local mullah says that killing surplus animals is wrong according to his interpretation of the Koran, then what am I supposed to do?"

    On a global scale (there's still a world outside of the USA ;) ) religious faith, and even more so, religious conservatism, is growing-and this is not limited to the variety of Christian faiths, but also other religions. Just ask, for example, Israelian Zoochat member about the growing number of orthodox jews (and their political influence) in their country or in Jewish communities worldwide. Think of the "hot" topic of conservative muslims in Europe. The growing interreligious conflicts worldwide. etc. etc.

    At the same time, there is an atheist countermovement especially in Western countries with growing social secularism and / or liberalism openly ridiculing religious faith and believers (while often taking to other subjects, among others of SJW relevance, with religious [compensation?]furor...^^). However, whether their demographics will be sufficient on the long run to compete to those of their more religious counterparts has yet to be seen.

    @temp: this is indeed no simplistic matter, and my original intention surely wasn't to be interpreted as such.
    As for "educational institutions"-aren't zoos meant to be such, if we follow Heidiger's definition of a modern zoo, and therefore also in danger of falling victim to such controversies?
     
    Last edited: 4 Jul 2016
  9. dunstbunny

    dunstbunny Well-Known Member

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    yes, imho religious coservatism and maintaining a low profile in regard of zoos is more of an American problem!

    In my opinion, zoos should not advertise too drastically that humankind is NOT the prime of creation, only softly undermining different beliefs by their expositions.....
     
  10. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    I suppose I'm confused about what your primary question is. When considering the future of zoos, I think it's useful to distinguish between "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" changes. By intrinsic changes, I mean changes driven by zoos themselves in an effort to become better institutions, whereas extrinsic changes are those necessitated by external opinion. You seem interested in extrinsic changes, but correct me if I'm wrong.

    These are inherently difficult to predict, because instead of asking "How should zoos improve?" (something I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on), we're asking "How do the general public think zoos should improve?" With the advent of social media, of course, anyone can contribute their ignorant and ill-considered "two cents" to a "debate". As you say, this has led to a trend of emotion trumping logic (pun intended) and PR fiascos for various zoos.

    The benefit of public ignorance, however, is that their grievances are typically cosmetic rather than fundamental. As far as I can tell, the trend here is that an issue is raised (perceived or otherwise), the targeted institution either resists or rectifies (or both), and everyone gets on with their lives. In other words, I don't think social media poses an existential threat to zoos, although it can certainly hurt individual zoos over certain issues.

    As for your case-studies, I focused on the teaching of evolution because either I don't see their relevance (eg. safe spaces) or don't have an answer. Other than the present policy of secrecy, I can't see any way to avoid a backlash from euthanizing healthy animals, at least in the UK. The Iranian perspective is disheartening, but hardly limited to religious conservatives. Edinburgh's red river hog controversy wasn't a religious one, but the armchair critics were no less unreasonable. As for the Central Park penguins, I thought the contention focused on public libraries stocking a book about the penguins, rather than the zoo itself. What was the response of the LGBT community?



    Vis-à-vis religious conservatism, we could both give examples where religion is waxing or waning. The Catholic Church may be making major gains in Asia and South America, but congregations are dwindling in its traditional heartlands. In general, the number of Christians worldwide (not just in the US) is predicted to increase at roughly the same rate as the population. Islam will likely increase at a higher rate, but an increasing percentage of Muslims doesn't necessarily equate to an increasing percentage of religious conservatives. That's particularly true given growing wealth and rising living standards across much of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Either way, whilst I couldn't speak for other cultures, I don't think any of the religious conservatives I know would expect or even want zoos to adopt a religious bias.
     
  11. temp

    temp Well-Known Member

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    I should have expressed myself more clearly. By "educational institutions" I ment (some) universities, colleges and their campuses. That's it. The broader definition, where zoos and a huge range of other places are included, have so far stayed away out of this. As have pretty much everywhere else.
     
  12. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    It's not producing so fast like religious group yes, but religious people often become not to say atheist, but who not believe in god.

    I don't expect that any scientist, would believe in god. Mostly, believers in god are people with lower education.
     
  13. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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    Religion is not equal to believing in a god, ask any buddist. Belief in a monotheistic god comes from the judeo-christian and islamic faiths. Many cultures have polythiesm and believe that humans and animals both have souls. Various native peoples believe this.

    In latin america, evolution is really not that much of any issue. Most people have more urgent things to consider, such as violence,poverty and economic crisis. The problem comes from religion considering population control as wrong. Zoos in latin america do not consider religion in their signs or programs. Various zoos put up nativity scenes with model animals for christmas, even though the directors and curators are non - believers, who say that such activities are for the general public, which enjoys them. The mexico city zoo even put altars on the day of the dead for famous zoo animals that have passed away. Most mexicans will tell you that the day of the dead is popular culture not religion, but that is another discussion.
     
  14. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    @Giant Panda: my primary question is: will the current/upcoming (social/religious/political...) radicalisation of global communities create and/or enforce significant changes in zoos?

    To be honest, I see most zoos and their stakeholders as more passive or rather, reactive when it comes to external pressures and changes: if the aspect of conservation hadn't been brought to public attention, most zoos wouldn't bother running breeding programs or invest in conservation programs.

    As for "How should zoos improve?": the article already gives away several aspects of critique I have in regards to how modern zoos operate these days.

    Don't underestimate the power of public interest: while most of it is rather flimsy, it can make a deep impact on the long run. If it weren't for the vocal anti-dolphinaria lobby, we would probably have more zoos keeping (and breeding) river dolphins these days...

    Indeed, atheists / non-religious people can be just as unreasonable as religious ones. However, I've usually found it harder to reason with someone who always uses his/her religious faith as an ultimate argument..
    Regarding the Central Park "gay" penguins: just as in the Bremerhaven case, LGBT groups raged against the (perceived) impression of "enforced heteroconformity" when the same-sex couples regrouped to form heterosexual couples. It's this "everyone is offended please" aspect I wanted to depict; the LGBT community can be just as unreasonable as their counterparts...

    Given that some religions (or rather, their practioners) feel entitled to influence every part of life, I wouldn't be surprised if zoos would have to concede.
     
  15. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    The question is: how long will it be possible to stay out of it?
     
  16. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    As scientists are only human(s), there are also religious individuals among them:
    https://www.theguardian.com/science...r/04/myth-scientists-religion-hating-atheists

    The question, which rings true for other professions, is how they separate work from faith for the benefit of all.

    Occasionally questioning and pondering about one's faith doesn't mean you're no longer a believer of your particular faith, but rather a reasonable human being. And if your religion allows you be such, it can't be too bad...;)
     
    Last edited: 5 Jul 2016
  17. dunstbunny

    dunstbunny Well-Known Member

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    Probably I am particularly dense, but I think I still haven't understood the thread topic.
    So let me ramble on until I have figured it out.

    What has religion to do with love for animals and the wish to preserve fauna (and consequently flora)?
    Except, if you are a "bad person" and use "religion" to promote your beliefs?

    Just recently I came across a newspaper article that claimed -grosso modo- : animals have no right to personhood because they are not "spiritual" and cannot express feelings. (I am sorry, I can't re-find the link anymore, but it was some bible-belt newspaper.)
    I have Asperger's, and basically every ape I know is more spiritual than I am and can express his/her feeling better than me!



    Batto, if you are referring to recent developements in German politics, I can only recommend we found a new party who puts in the "Grundgesetz": Humankind is NOT the prime of creation!!!!
     
  18. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Quite a lot, depending on the circumstances. Let's try to paraphrase it: do you think it'd be easy to realize a conservation program for an endangered pig in a predominantly Muslim country? While you don't have to be afraid of illegal poaching, you will have to fight hard for local public support for such a "filthy" animal...

    Now I'm the one who has absolutely no clue what you're talking about...;)
     
  19. dunstbunny

    dunstbunny Well-Known Member

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    if you put it this way... maybe. Imho it's already good that the endangererd pig isn't poached/eaten, as long as there isn't a filthy-pig-extermination-squad....
    Religion should't have any say in animal care: holy cows in India are starving because there are too many.

    From personal experience I can say, mostly religion doesn't overrule animal causes. A member of my family is violent creationist, but he still loves apes and donates when I ask, although he totally negates we have a common ancestor.

    for the rest... ;) :cool: it remains to be seen
     
  20. HyakkoShachi

    HyakkoShachi Well-Known Member

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    There are "progressive" zoos in progressive cities and conservative zoos in conservative cities. Some regions are outward looking and have very international zoos, other zoos have a stronger focus on local species. Zoos are a fairly basic idea and can be easily adapted to whatever the people ask for, they'll always exist is some form or another, after all, you can't kill an idea.