Today’s factismal: The London Zoo is doing its annual animal census this week.
If you stop by the London Zoo this week, you might see someone with a clipboard peering at the animals and making “one panda, two panda” noises. That’s because this week is the London Zoo’s annual animal census. Now it might seem a bit strange that a zoo has to count the animals it has, but there is method to the madness.
The main reason that zoos do animal censuses is to ensure that every animal is present and accounted for. Today, that helps them make sure that the animals are being properly taken care of (and that no visitor has taken a koala home to snuggle with). But back in the 1700s, zoos were typically more about showing off your power and prestige than about taking care of the animals. As a result, many collections had dreadful records of animal abuse; many animals were either killed in “hunts” or allowed to starve in their cages. In order to make the owners of zoos more responsible, England required that all zoos conduct an annual census so that the owners could be held responsible for the animals that they claimed to be taking care of.
Thanks to laws like that, today’s zoo is less of a place to see the last of a species and more a place to see species brought back from the brink. Much of that change is due to the London Zoo; when it was founded in 1828, it was specifically set up to perform scientific research in the interests of improving our understanding of animals and helping to keep them alive. It was so dedicated to those goals, that it didn’t even open its gates to the general public for nearly two decades! But when it did let the general public in, the researchers discovered that the people visiting the zoo could help, too. That continues today at the 10,000 zoos spread across the world.
If you’d like to help your local zoo conserve critters, why not get involved with Frog Watch USA? This program uses volunteers (like you) to count frog species. They’ve been at it for 15 years now and have learned some amazing things about amphibians. To discover more, leap over to: