Zoo News: Ever evolving, but always grounded
As mentioned previously, the business of operating an accredited zoo has gone through many changes over the years. This is especially true in the sense of how and where we get the animals and how we manage them. As a smaller facility within the AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums), the Roosevelt Park Zoo (RPZ) relies heavily on the many animal cooperative programs managed within the organization to gain access to animals that may not be obtainable otherwise.
In today’s world, nearly all animals you see at the zoo were born in human care at another AZA accredited zoo. As a member, RPZ works with these cooperative programs as a breeding or holding institution. The biggest limiting factor for many of the breeding programs is the limited number of spaces available for placing animals. And as regulations and animal care standards continue to evolve, it is necessary for new animal enclosures to meet those standards, often requiring more space and resources.
As zoos evolve, so too do the animal programs. The current trend seems to be reducing the number or variety of animals and to focus the available space on identified species to provide the most spaces possible for specifically targeted species. Some have shown concern that this type of thinking may lead to every zoo having to manage the same animals causing them to lose their individual identity and making every zoo look the same. To battle this many facilities have created off exhibit breeding areas or even establish breeding and holding spaces completely off-site to meet the new demands.
As the Roosevelt Park Zoo moves forward, it will keep these trends in mind, but will always continue to focus on what is not only best for the animals, but also the Minot community. The larger zoos tend to be able to create those additional spaces where a small zoo must utilize every square-foot of its footprint wisely and efficiently. The most recent changes that included the lion and tiger enclosures, along with the soon to be completed leopard exhibit, were all designed to meet those needs for the animal breeding programs that will allow RPZ to participate.
The zoo is about more than just animals, it is about people. Looking forward the zoo will continue to construct animal spaces that will provide a higher level of care and intended to meet the needs of the various programs. However, it will also focus on ensuring changes on the public sides of the fence designed to enhance the guests’ experiences that visit the zoo. For without the support of our guests, fewer resources are available to meet the needs of the animals. There must be a balance.
The RPZ will continue to work with the animal management programs to do its part ensuring the long-term successes of animals in human care, but also continue to improve our amenities for guests. The zoo is a place for families, students, friends, and individuals to experience nature, learn about animals, and experience the wonderment in the similarities and differences of the animals and the people who support them.