3. Outside the Zoo: Animal Ambassadors

The outside the zoo can be just as important as the inside, since it is the outside that determines the inner working of the zoos. Communicating with the public brings people into the zoos and spreads the messages of conservation. A relatively new trend in this field that caters to this need is the use of animal ambassadors. These animals are a select group of animals of various species that are chosen to represent their species or the zoo and spread conservation programs. But, not all zoo animals are cut out for being an ambassador. Keepers look for animals with good temperaments and that do well with large crowds of people. This was the case in the Oregon Zoo with its rhino. In an article in the Columbian, (“Oregon Zoo Vets Put Down Popular Rhino”) the writer mentioned that the zoo’s rhino’s sweet disposition made him a great ambassador. And the experts of the field readily approve of this new trend because most of the people handling the ambassadors are the experts. Dave Salmoni, for example, is an expert in apex predators and he frequently appears on TV with these animal ambassadors.

In National Geographic, Mendelson wrote an article, “Cheetah Ambassador Enlightens People About Big Cat,” about an audience seeing a live cheetah right in front of them. “It is an event that nobody forgets, and brings the issues surrounding the cheetah to another level for an audience that lives on the other side of the world.” Using animals makes more of an impact on the public than just simply lecturing the audience, which is why it is such an important trend. It’s what made me want to work with wild animals as I was growing up. Watching them on shows like, “David Letterman” and “Conan O’Brian,” made the animals more entertaining. Not to mention that using these shows reaches a wider audience and uses the host’s ethos (or reputation) to the zoo’s advantage.

Photo courtesy of Marcy Mendelson

And not only do these animals help spread knowledge about their own species, but they help others as well. These animals are known as surrogate ambassadors and they are used to represent several other species. For example, in another article for National Geographic called “Surrogate Ambassador Species: The Lynx as a Case Study” the author, Schaul, discusses how bobcats are being used to promote other bobcats and lynxes because lynxes. Lynxes are more endangered than bobcats, so it would be rather difficult to find enough to help spread word about their conservation efforts.

Here is the link for the cheetah ambassador article: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/25/cheetah-ambassador/

Here is the link for the bobcat surrogate ambassador article: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/21/surrogate-ambassador-species-the-lynx-as-a-case-study/

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