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The global spread of the coronavirus is disrupting travel. Before anyone starts sprinkling the stuff on their cornflakes, this isn't the hottest new beauty trend nor is it a natural phenomenon: Assiniboine Park Zoo's keepers use coloured glitter in the bears' feed to identify their droppings.
Well, scat reveals all sorts of things about individual animals; information the keepers share with the scientific community. Many zoos conduct such studies, and also run captive breeding programmes for endangered species. However, critics say this doesn't justify their existence. They often display neurotic behaviour, like repetitive pacing, swaying, and bar biting.
Not surprising, perhaps, considering the typical polar bear enclosure is one million times smaller than the area they would naturally roam. PETA isn't alone. In April, ethical tour operator Responsible Travel — after consultation with wildlife charity Born Free Foundation — axed trips that include zoo visits.
It's the first travel company to publicly make such a move.
: Should I worry about chemtrails? That's not a record that justifies tens of millions of wild animals kept in zoos. PETA's Bekhechi adds, the aim of breeding programmes is just "to produce baby animals to attract visitors.
Some, however, argue that children benefit from zoos.
That claim is up for debate. But, for every story that casts zoos in a bad light — from Vince the rhino's poaching at Paris' Thoiry Zoo in March; Cincinnati Zoo shooting endangered gorilla, Harambe, last year after fell into his enclosure; or Copenhagen Zoo killing and publicly dissecting Marius, a two-year-old giraffe in — there are heart-warming tales too.
Zoos across the US can take credit for reviving the wild Arabian oryx, golden lion tamarin and Californian condor populations, among many others. In the age of social media, high profile culls have sparked heated debates. The shooting of Harambe the gorilla spawned the most-shared meme of and caused a hounded Cincinnati Zoo to suspend its social media s. When it comes to lethal force and animal welfare, at least, public opinion swiftly sides against zoos. But whether recent events have triggered a profound shift in public consciousness is harder to quantify.
Regardless of the merits or ethics of zoos, one thing's for certain: they're going to be around for some years yet. Look out for the GFAS seal of approval. Step away from the selfie stick. Don't be suckered into supporting companies that offer experiences like hugging a tiger, swimming with dolphins, riding elephants, or kissing sharks.
These experiences are often harmful to wildlife and dangerous for you. PETA says: "People who care about protecting endangered species should donate to organisations that safeguard them in their natural habitats — if a species' native environment has been destroyed, there's nowhere left for the animals to go.
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By James Draven. Photograph by Getty. The polar bears in Winnipeg have disco poo. Their droppings look like little glitterballs. How can you tell a zoo from a sanctuary? So it's better to have 'close encounters' with animals in the wild, right? How do we save wildlife if not by breeding programmes?
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