As the Chief Executive of Zoos South Australia, you might be surprised to learn that I wish there was no need for zoos. In a perfect world, species would roam free without threat from poachers, deforestation, the illegal pet trade and feral species. Sadly, the need for good zoos like Adelaide has never been greater.
Zoos SA is a non-government, non-profit conservation charity that raises funds for its work through grants, sponsorship and monies from memberships, visits and donations. This money helps to care for our animals (including 61 species threatened with extinction), carry out conservation work and pursue our Master Plan projects.
Adelaide Zoo opened in 1883 making it the second oldest zoo in Australia. There is no doubt that in those days zoo animals were partly for entertainment but fortunately, today, our society’s view of good zoos has evolved – as have we. Nowadays, Adelaide Zoo plays a role in the community and beyond – as well as saving species we are an educator (we have thousands of students of all ages through our gates every year) and connect people from all ages, places, economic groups and cultures with nature.
As a historical site, we acknowledge that some of our exhibits could do with upgrading. Fortunately, until we have the funds to do so we know that our current exhibits are sufficient. Our ZAA accreditation means that we assess all species at Adelaide Zoo and sister site Monarto using the Five Domains Model. Naturally, as with all forward-thinking organisations, there is a lot more we want to achieve, which is why our Master Plan and five-year-plans detail our ambitions of continuing the expansion of the giraffe habitat to quadruple its original size and to build a new habitat for African Lions.
Enabling our members and visitors to get close to animals is a necessity. While some of us are lucky to travel overseas to see animals in the wild, there are many who never will. Our CBD location means Adelaide Zoo is easily accessible to all: a critical factor for connecting with the future generations who will take over our work. And what work it is…
Just last week saw the release of four critically endangered Orange bellied Parrots born and raised at Adelaide Zoo. Five years ago, there were only 17 birds thought to survive in the wild; now their numbers, although dangerously small, are in their hundreds – a population that mirrors the number of birds bred for release by good zoos.
Therefore, as we reshape our zoo, I ask that people also reshape their impressions of good zoos and show their support. Please do not consider ethical zoos like Adelaide as an icon of the bygone day or depict us as a cruel prison. Instead, see us as a conservation ark for freeing species from their predicted fate.
CE, Zoos SA
THIS OPINION PIECE APPEARED IN THE ADVERTISER, 29 APRIL 2021 IN RESPONSE TO REX JORY’S STORY OF 26 APRIL 2021.
For more information about Zoos SA and ways to support us: www.zoossa.com.au