Greenwashing Zoos

David Hancocks, a former director and architect of zoos in the United States and Australia, is skeptical of the conservation benefits often claimed by zoos. While many zoos tout breeding as a success story, Hancocks sees it as "merely basic zoo business: zoos must breed their animals to preserve their collections. Hardly any animals born in zoos are introduced to the wild." Despite this, he wrote in an opinion column, "They nonetheless loudly position themselves as leaders in wildlife conservation. In truth, government and non-government agencies are most successful in restoring habitat and reintroducing wild species. Zoos play an occasional minor role - and want all the glory." While a supporter of what he describes as a handful of the "best zoos," he is not persuaded by the claims of many zoos that their re-designed enclosures improve conditions for the animals: "The new zoos, sans cages, make visitors feel better, but it is all deception. The animals typically have no contact with living plants, separated from them by electric wires." Yet such greenwashing attracts more visitors.