Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Do Zoos Really Teach Visitors Anything? (Op-Ed)

Marc Bekoff | March 11, 2014 12:10am ET

Marc Bekoff, emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is one of the world's pioneering cognitive ethologists, a Guggenheim Fellow, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Bekoff's latest book is Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed (New World Library, 2013). This Op-Ed is adapted from one that appeared in Bekoff's column Animal Emotions in Psychology Today. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Zoos (including aquariums) exist worldwide and are visited by millions of people annually. Whether or not they provide any significant educational experience has long been debated, despite claims by zoo supporters, workers and administrators that they do. The recent killing of a young and healthy giraffe named Marius at the Copenhagen Zoo, who was viewed by the zoo as a disposable object because he couldn't be used as a breeding machine, has brought a good deal of attention to these businesses. I call this "The Marius" Effect," and many people who never were actively or critically vocal about the goings-on at zoos have gotten involved because of their revulsion at the unnecessary and heartless killing of this youngster.

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