For Me, This Isn't Business, It's Very Personal


It has not been an easy last few weeks in my world.  Following the recent tragedy in Florida I find that the public backlash concerning conservation, environmental education, zoos and aquariums, has rocked me to the core.  While I know a large section of the American public does support zoos and aquariums, I was totally unprepared to learn that an equally large – and infinitely more vocal – percentage does not agree with the ethics of captive wildlife.  Worse, they feel that mission statements of research, rescue, and conservation education, may simply be veils with which to camouflage less noble motives.

And perhaps most devastating of all, many of those people who most strongly disagree with my professional field are some of the biggest names and forces in wildlife conservation.

I am floored to discover that the community of environmentalists and conservationists is dramatically polarized on this issue.  I feel somewhat betrayed by my fellow conservationists who are so strongly and publicly denouncing zoos and aquariums with the argument that no one can learn anything from an animal if it is not living in its natural habitat.  For some reason I had always identified all conservation groups as being apart of a wider community that was working towards a common goal.   For me such sense of a fluid community has all but vanished.

For an environmental educator like myself, these are deeply disturbing opinions to hear and have led to many sleepless nights.  I have often lain awake at these times wondering if we are indeed failing our missions, what more we can do to make use of our exhibits and animals for inspiration, and how we can learn from judiciously considering the viewpoints that are so strongly opposed to us.

I for one am tired of debating my chosen life’s work in grocery store checkout lines and at the post office.   I want to get back to the business of promoting awareness, conservation, and green lifestyles.  I want to get back to teaching and guiding and watching small moments make a big impact that can change the direction of a life.


2 Comments to “For Me, This Isn't Business, It's Very Personal”

  1. I am a recently retired computer tech. I volunteer at the local (state-run) aquarium. We have recently set a record attendance, so our supporters are out there.

    There seems to be an anti-science movement. Science was fine when it was men in white smocks in a lab somewhere, but when it interferes with peoples’ lives – and especially their livelihood – people become irrational and combative. They refuse to listen and to learn. It is very disheartening.

    I understand how you feel. All I can say is “take heart”. We are with you. Take some time off, lick your wounds, and gather your strength. We cannot change everyone, everywhere, but we can change someone, somewhere. We must pick our battles.

    Best wishes and good luck!


  2. I’m also surprised and disappointed to hear this. I thought it was just the loons like PETA who tried to destroy such work. Hopefully after the furor of this tragic event dies down, cooler heads will prevail and the importance of well-maintained zoos and aquariums will be re-established.