Some time last year, I was speaking to a few young nature enthusiasts. They were part of a group working on ‘environment’ in urban areas. They believed that zoos had a great role to play in animal conservation. Frankly, I was aghast. I thought of our Byculla zoo in Bombay, its tired, beaten animals and wondered how that be possibly called conservation?
Till I saw Singapore Zoo. Walking around the large, spacious, tree lined, open-plan zoo, my ideas about zoos and conservation turned on its head. Largely animals were not caged, there seemed to be ample space for them to move around, and they looked healthy and well fed. Moreover, a good cross section of the animal world was represented here. Even a polar bear. Even people were quite well mannered around them. No throwing peanuts, or whistling at them at animals. People did follow the ‘no flash’ rule and certainly were not up to some monkey tricks out there.
I am really unqualified to talk about this, but this I realise: zoos could be a real resource to conservation. It was possible to take care of them in closely simulated natural environments. It could be a starting point to rebuilding everything we are losing at a fast pace. And get some good bit of education in the process.