Close down the zoos! Costa Rica is doing it, and Denmark probably wishes the zoos were gone, after the Giraffe Horror. Sea World is on the way out because its customer base—upper-middle class moms who saw Blackfish on Netflix—suddenly stopped going to Sea World.
Are any zoo-type institutions worth keeping? Yes. Based on extremely biased personal experience, you can patronize the following places because their missions and actions are all about conservation, bio-regionalism, science and protection of endangered species. This doesn’t mean they are perfect, but as a member you can help push them down the right path. Join the board! Demand all ecoregional plants and animals!
- Living Desert Zoo, Palm Desert, California: The gardens representing every North American desert are worth the price of membership—members get a big discount at the native-plant nursery, so you can rip up that water-guzzling lawn and plant the stuff a southwestern home deserves.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California: Free of the “legacy issues” of the old prison zoos, the Aquarium began in 1984 and has been directed by Audubon Medal of Conservation honoree Julie Packard. Monterey Bay doesn’t just house orphaned sea otters and teach kids about the wonders of the deep sea alongside California’s biggest cities, because this aquarium is behind everything from the “Seafood Watch” app teaching millions of people to eat sustainable seafood to comprehensive overhauls of the nation’s ocean management laws.
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona: One of the original bioregional zoos and botanical gardens, this 21-acre expanse in the hills just outside of town has taught millions of schoolchildren and adults about the flora, fauna, geology and original peoples of this beautiful part of America.
- Trailside Museums and Zoo, Bear Mountain State Park, New York: With the Appalachian trail running through the middle, this natural area is home to local wildlife that wound up here through one misfortune or another, allowing people to actually hike around and see Northeastern mountain critters in a close-to-natural setting. Four museums are connected by the trails, and the zoo’s location within a beloved natural state park makes a visit worthwhile.
- Audubon Society Sanctuaries, throughout the United States: From Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, the Audubon wildlife sanctuaries are the best places to spot your local wildlife doing exactly what local wildlife is supposed to do: Live free in its natural environment!
Photo via Sadie_Girl.