I’m conducting some policy research on this bill and in reviewing the conservation status of species as imperiled as the Ethiopian wolf and the Iberian lynx, I realize just how integral zoo and living institution conservation education is to the field of wildlife conservation. There may not be much data available on this wild felid also known as the Spanish lynx or the wolf that is endemic to the highlands of Ethiopia, but I’m familiar similar vanishing carnivores. In fact, I’m much more familiar with clouded leopards and African wild dogs because they are displayed in zoos as ambassadors and as captive breeding stock. They too, are imperiled species, and although we may have more data on them, I suspect we know more about these carnivorans because zoos have put them on our radar.
Captive breeding programs for the Iberian lynx have not been particularly successful. The Ethiopian government will not permit the capture of wild wolves for breeding programs. These animals are kind of out of sight and hence, out of mind. This to me, indicates why zoos are so important.
Many people outside of the zoo field or state and federal conservation agencies/organizations are aware that the black-footed ferret is the most endangered mammal in North America. We were looking at a population that is smaller than what exists for the Iberian Lynx or the Ethiopian wolf. I suspect that prairie dog exhibits which typically reference the most feared predator of these popular ground squirrels and the few black-footed ferret exhibits out there are responsible for making us aware of such an endangered species.
The general public may not subscribe to Audubon or National Geographic and they may avoid elective didactic course work in biology, but they do visit zoos. To learn more about this bill visit the following link: http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0422-hance_greatcats.html
Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus