Life and death in today’s zoos.

The New York Times ran a sobering article on Monday about the terrible choices that face today’s AZA accredited zoos. As more and more species become endangered or vulnerable in their natural habitats, zoos must decide which animals to try to save and which to abandon. It is literally life or death, or–more accurately–life and death, in the hands of a dedicated few.

When I was discussing the article and my ensuing depression with my husband, he brought up the point that sooner or later every species on this planet will die out. It’s the nature of evolution. Heck, according to NASA we’re already playing chicken with the Andromeda galaxy and we’ll all be snuffed out together in a few billion years or so. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal, it seems, is that many scientists believe we’re entering the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the Earth. The last time this came around was 65 million years ago and if you happened to be a large land animal, it wasn’t too fun. Just ask a T-Rex. So, yes, it’s the nature of evolution, but now the question has become how quickly can we evolve and how many animals can we help along the way?

In simple terms: The house is on fire. Not everyone will live. Who do we save?

It’s overwhelming thinking about the big picture (ergo the depression), but luckily most of us aren’t in a position where we have to make these choices. For my part, I will support the zoos and refuges that are rushing boldly into the fire. Every membership counts.