On the most basic level, zoos help keep a population of animals safe. Any certified zoo will be able to keep the animals in its care safe, healthy, and protected from whatever threats menace the animal in the wild. Deforestation and poaching now sadly mean that home is not safe for these animals, and keeping a population in a managed habitat monitored and protected by people has become necessary for some of them. These captive populations allow researchers and keepers to observe the animals’ behavior. The more we know about how these animals act, the better we can develop effective conservation strategies.
Finally, zoos allow wider human populations to fall in love with animals. Amazingly, considering the number of Instagram accounts devoted to red pandas (every one of which I follow), not everyone has heard of the originalpanda, and many of these people would never know about them without a visit to the zoo. Even established panda enthusiasts rarely have the chance to trek into the Nepalese countryside or elsewhere in the red pandas’ range, and so a zoo-kept red panda is the only chance most people will have to see one.
In addition to coordinating a worldwide breeding program for red pandas, the GSMP also actively supports in-situ (on-site, in its original place) conservation programs by partnering with nonprofit organizations like Red Panda Network (RPN). Zoos and zookeepers around the world actively participate in International Red Panda Day to help educate and fundraise for RPN. This is only one of many in-situ conservation programs supported by the WAZA, its member zoos, and the people who work and volunteer at these zoos.
Thank you for reading!
Writing and Communications Volunteer
Red Panda Network