I am posting this for my friend, Betsy Burkhardt
I recently saw the movie, Escape from Extinction, twice within one week. As a whole-hearted animal-lover, the movie was both invigorating and sobering at the same time.
One of the main focal points is educating the public, who are often misinformed about zoos and aquariums, with the belief that the animals are just at the zoos/aquariums and are held there in captivity, so that we humans can gawk at them. The movie offers information on how current zoos and aquariums are essential for the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that are on the verge of extinction. These are accredited institutions that rescue animals and clean the oil off of animals after huge ocean oil spills/people who take in infant polar bears, elephants, and rhinos, who are starving to death because their mother has been shot to death. Giving these animals food and connection to social skills. These are just a few examples of how accredited zoos have dramatically kept many species from going extinct.
I lived in Zambia for three years and was fortunate to go to the Lilayi Elephant Nursery, just outside of Lusaka, the Capitol. Here, orphaned elephants are relocated from where poachers have killed their mother, in order to saw off her tusks. These baby elephants are often starving and in need milk as well as social interaction. It is an amazing place, one set up by the African Elephant Orphanage Project, (EOP). Of note is that each baby elephant has it's own human who acts as a parent to the baby
elephant…..feeding it milk from a bottle, stroking it, going on walks with the other orphaned elephants. Also, these caretakers sleep above their chosen baby elephant. When ready, the elephants are returned to the wild.
From the movie, I learned a lot about "keystone species". These animals, like the grey wolf in Yellowstone National Park, are essential species to their ecosystem because the ecosystem largely depends on it such that if that particular keystone species is removed, the whole ecosystem, including plants, will change dramatically. The grey wolf once had a huge population when Yellowstone was established in 1872. Sadly, with the migration of people from the East to the West Coast, many grey wolves were shot to death. Grey wolf packs were often seen in abundance in the 1800s. Sadly, by 1926, the last wolf pack in Yellowstone, was killed off. With a lot of work and determination, accredited zoos were able to breed the few remaining grey wolves who lived in the other 48 states, and were able to restore a population of grey wolves to Yellowstone.
We humans have created a horrendous global environment. Plastic kills animals daily, global warming has contributed to huge fires, like the current ones in California and Australia, killing thousands of animals. Illegal trade of animals still continues. Poachers in Africa and elsewhere are still abundant and endangered animals, like the black rhino that lives in Zambia, have had to have their horns sawed off and have park rangers, equipped with guns, follow the rhinos daily to make sure they remain safe from poachers.
Lastly, most people are aware of the movie "Freeing Willy". People protested against aquariums, and they wanted Keiko (the real name of the whale), to be returned to the ocean and then he would no longer live in the confining aquarium at Sea World. Sadly, Keiko who had lived all of his adult life at Sea World, could not be taught to live in the wild. Confining a wild killer whale will take away all of the whale's instincts on how to live in the wild. Keiko could not fend for himself and would swim up to boats asking to be fed and rubbed. Keiko ended up dying. It turns out that trying to recreate these natural instincts for Keiko can only be taught by "nature" from the start, when they are born and are raised by their pod. Escape from Extinction is an extraordinarily good movie.
I highly recommend seeing it.