Azara Blog: Ideas for managed zoos and woodlands

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Date published: 2005/12/05

The BBC says:

An idea to ensure tourists visiting wildlife parks catch a glimpse of the animals they came to see has been proposed at an environmental conference in Malaysia.

Bernard Harrison, a zoo manager and designer, suggested the construction of "managed wildlife sanctuaries" on degraded land would allow people to enjoy what he called "orchestrated random encounters".

Speaking at the International Media and Environment Summit (Imes) in Kuching, he said this approach would suit many ecotourists who did not appreciate that the creatures they had paid to see often preferred to remain hidden.

The sanctuaries could be created on environmentally damaged land because such areas were actually often rich in food, he added.

It would also have the bonus, Mr Harrison told delegates, of helping to resolve what was a "constant battle" between the needs of national parks to keep areas unspoilt, and the tourist industry "which want as many parks open as possible."

The director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, London, UK, called for more areas of "functioning wilderness" that were off-limits to people.

Sir Peter Crane told the Imes conference that an area of ancient English forest, managed by Kew Gardens, near London's Gatwick Airport had benefited from adopting a policy of restricted access.

One area experienced visitor numbers of 400,000 a year, another limited acccess to just 15 people a day, while one site operated "complete exclusion".

The rare hazel dormouse, found in the woodland, "depends on that management tactic," Sir Peter said, adding that many small ferns also benefited.

"One misplaced foot can destroy decades of growth.

"In the absolute conservation zone, obviously these plants are doing better."

Well zoos are mostly horrid, but if someone wants to try out a new type of "managed wildlife sanctuary" (i.e. zoo) then what the heck, it's always worth seeing which ideas work out best in the end (by whatever criterion is being judged).

As for putting areas off-limits to humans, that's almost certainly to be better for the non-humans. But access should also be off-limits to the so-called experts, otherwise this just looks like yet another excuse for the middle class academic elite to gives themselves (and their friends) privileges where none exist for ordinary people. (Of course this kind of privilege already exists in many places, e.g. at Lascaux in France there is a real cave and a fake cave, and most people can only see the latter, but VIPs, including connected academics, get to see the former.) So also make these woodlands off-limits to the scientists. (It's hard to believe these so-called experts can manage a woodland better than Mother Nature can do by herself.)

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