Grades 7-8 | Analysis | Text-Dependent
Prompt: You will read three texts about zoos: “The Stripes Will Survive”, “The Zoos Go Wild”, and “Our Beautiful Macaws and Why They Need Enrichment”. Each text claims that the role of zoos is to protect animals. Write an essay that compares and contrasts the evidence each source uses to support this claim. Be sure to use evidence from all three sources to support your response.
Danya nips his mother’s furry back over and over, as if he’s trying to see how many times he can get away with it. It doesn’t seem like a very smart game, considering Mom is a Siberian tigress! But Danya and his twin sister, Dasha, know how special they are to their mother.
They’re also special to visitors who travel to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio for a glimpse of these rare cubs. But if Siberian tigers weren’t so rare, Danya and Dasha would never have been born.
A hundred years ago, no one worried that the world might run out of tigers. One hundred thousand tigers belonging to eight different subspecies prowled the forests and jungles of the world. But today three subspecies—the Balinese, Caspian, and Javan tigers—are now extinct, and a fourth—the South China tiger—is almost extinct. Fewer than 5,000 tigers roam the wild. Only about 400 of those are Siberian tigers, which are the largest, lightest-colored, and longest-furred tigers. And only 500 Siberian tigers live in zoos.
In 1981, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association started the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to make sure that threatened and endangered animal species don’t disappear. The members of the Tiger SSP teach the public about the plight of tigers and do research. They keep a computerized family tree of zoo tigers that helps match males and females for breeding.
The Tiger SSP’s computer program matched four-year-old Gaia, from the Minnesota Zoo, with fifteen-year-old Tatja, from the Milwaukee Zoo. The tigers met at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and Danya and Dasha were born a few months later. When the twins entered the world on April 4, 2001, each was a two-pound ball of woolly, striped fur.
Tiger fathers in the wild don’t help care for their cubs and sometimes try to kill them. Tatja, whom zookeeper Steve Gove describes as “a mellow tiger,” gets along well with Gaia and likes watching his cubs play. Although the zoo staff members keep Tatja in a separate area, they don’t think he would hurt the cubs.
Gaia had never had cubs before, but Gove says, “She’s been an absolutely perfect mother—tolerant, loving, and protective.” In the wild, tiger mothers teach their cubs to hunt. Danya and Dasha won’t need to hunt, but Gaia teaches them chasing and stalking techniques, as well as how to swim and groom themselves.
These lessons are pure fun for the twins. As soon as his sister’s back is turned, Danya crouches, then pounces, and the two roll across the grass in a wrestling ball of stripes and teeth. But she’ll get him back later, maybe when he’s splashing in the pool during his swimming lesson or struggling to carry the piece of log he’s turned into a toy. “They’ll make a toy out of anything,” says Gove.
Grooming lessons come in handy for playful cubs who can’t resist rolling in the mud. Gove explains, “Sometimes they’re so black you can hardly see their stripes when they come in at night, but they’re completely clean by morning.” Mom has taught them to wash their fur with their tongues, and swallowing a couple pounds of mud doesn’t seem to bother them a bit.
If mud doesn’t sound very tasty to you, how about raw horse meat? Tatja would tell you (if he could) that nothing’s more delicious. On some nights he lets supper sit for a while, but on horse-meat night he cares about nothing else until he’s eaten every bite. Danya crouches jealously over his slab of meat. If Mom or Sis wanders too close, he lets out a deep growl that sounds as if it should have come from his 500-pound father.
With supper over, everyone in the tiger building is content. “Gaia and the cubs are pretty friendly,” says zookeeper Curt Gindlesperger. Proving him right, Gaia strolls to the fence and rubs against his hand like a 300-pound house cat.
The tiger family seems comfortable in Cleveland, where the weather is similar to that of their natural habitat in eastern Russia. But the time may come to move on. Tatja, who has cubs at two other zoos, will probably leave. The Tiger SSP may also transfer one or both cubs to zoos where they will raise their own families. Then Danya and Dasha will help make sure Siberian tigers are around for a long, long time.
But what about the 400 Siberian tigers left in their natural habitat? How will they survive?
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other organizations are working with the Russian government to set aside protected areas for these big cats. Rangers patrol for poachers, and educational programs help the local people understand the need to protect Siberian tigers. These efforts seem to be working. The WWF believes that the number of Siberian tigers in the wild has doubled since the antipoaching patrols began, bringing the tiger numbers from around 200 in 1994 to about 400 today.
The small lowland gorilla was just three years old when he was caught by poachers, people who illegally kill or capture wild animals. He was taken away from his mother and out of his African rainforest home. Few gorillas that age could survive such an ordeal, but this one was lucky. Soon after his capture in 1961, an animal trader sold him to Zoo Atlanta. He spent the next 27 years of his life alone in an indoor cage. Zoo personnel named him Willie B. after William B. Hartsfield, the mayor of Atlanta.
Willie’s keepers wanted him to be happy. They hung an old tire from a wall of his cage and put a television set in one corner. They hoped these toys would keep Willie from being bored. But the tire and the television set were hardly the playthings a growing gorilla needed.
By age 12, Willie had grown into a magnificent 460-pound, 6-foot-tall silverback, a mature male with a distinguishing streak of silver hair on his back. His broad chest and powerful arms made people think of King Kong. They crowded in front of his cage to see him.
Gorillas are gentle, shy creatures, despite their size and fearsome appearance. But confinement in a cramped cage and lack of exercise had made Willie restless and bad-tempered. He grew fat and lazy, paced in his cage, and ignored visitors. His cage was a real prison, and Willie B. was a very unhappy gorilla.
A turning point in Willie’s life came in 1988. That year, Zoo Atlanta opened the Ford African Rainforest, a brand-new home for Willie and the zoo’s other lowland gorillas. It was a large open-air enclosure designed to resemble the rainforest of Willie’s native central Africa.
The Way Willie Likes It
Willie’s rainforest home is just one example of the far-reaching changes that have taken place in zoos in recent years. Zoos no longer feel their primary mission is simply to collect and display as many different species of animals from around the world as they possibly can. They no longer believe that the more unusual animals a zoo has, the better it is. Instead, zoos are changing into conservation parks that cooperate to help save animals threatened with extinction. The first step toward this goal was to get rid of the cages and change the way zoo animals lived.
When Willie was let out of his cage into his new home, he found himself in a large grassy area leading to a gradually rising, rock-covered slope. All around the edges of the slope were trees and plants similar to those in his African home.
In no time, Willie acted like a different animal. He was no longer bored or easily angered. There were tree branches he could pull to test his strength or bend into a nest for his afternoon siesta, and there was a rocky hillside he could climb. More important, he had company. He shared his new home with three females, and other groups of gorillas lived nearby. Willie could finally act like the silverback he was. He could have his own family and be the dominant male.
Willie had not lost the instinct for peaceful family life that gorillas live by in the wild. He watched over his family when it was feeding or resting, ever alert for danger. His companions could chase each other and wrestle, knowing he was there to protect them. Every so often, he would cup his hands and thump his chest to show the females and nearby rival males who was boss. Willie B. had finally become a real gorilla. In February 1994, he became a father as well.
Three other gorilla groups share Zoo Atlanta’s African Rainforest enclosure with Willie’s family. They are kept apart from each other by trees and small hills that mark their territories, just the way it would be in Africa. The gorillas spend their time looking for bamboo shoots and leaves to eat, grooming each other, napping between meals, or just resting.
Willie’s story has a happy ending. But the best part is that he is not alone in his good fortune. Thousands of other zoo animals throughout the world have been moved into new homes that replaced the old, cramped cages in which they lived before.
Lessons from Germany
Housing animals in open-air, natural enclosures is not a new idea. The first to use such a setting was Karl Hagenbeck at the Hamburg Zoo, Germany, in 1907. He moved antelopes into a grassy, open area. To add a touch of drama, he placed a pride of lions just behind them. Visitors to the zoo were startled to find lions living next to antelopes. They could not see the moat that separated the predators from their prey.
Hagenbeck’s novel idea of allowing animals to move about freely in large open spaces caught on. He was asked to redesign the Detroit Zoo in the 1930s. His ideas were also used in New York’s Bronx Zoo, Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, and the San Diego Zoo.
But large-scale redesigning of zoos didn’t begin until the 1960s, when natural habitats of wild animals around the world began to shrink in size, and scores of species dwindled to the point of vanishing. Zoo designers traveled to the animals’ natural habitats in faraway places to study not only what the habitats looked like but how the animals used the space and behaved in it. Housing animals in spaces that were as close to the animals’ habitats as the designers could make them was an important step in the struggle to save endangered species.
Oakland Zoo’s Animal Care, Conservation, and Research team has the privilege and challenge of providing our animal residents with an enriching, well-balanced life and advocating for the conservation of their wild counterparts.
The zoo’s flock of Blue and Gold Macaws recently got a healthy dose of extra enrichment. The ACCR1 team combed through a handful of creative ideas to give the Macaw Exhibit a new, fresh look. In addition to replacing some of the wood perching that had suffered significant wear-and-tear from years of the macaws using them to keep their beaks sharp and strong, the team also added two twenty-foot sections of rope. The rope is a novel perching surface in this exhibit. It will not only give our Blue and Gold Macaws something new and fun to play with, but it will also help keep their little feet healthy. With some resourceful alterations to the ends of the rope, the keepers are able to move the ropes to different angles whenever they please. This way the birds get a bit of a “different look” with their perching without the keepers having to make any permanent rearrangements.
The fun doesn’t stop there, though! The team recycled some cargo netting and stretched it out between some perching to support brand new bird baths. Just like the native songbirds that like to bathe in the little puddles in your yard, Macaws and other parrots love to keep themselves clean too.
But one may wonder... why? Why do our Blue and Gold Macaws deserve this special treatment?
Macaws are smart. Macaws are REALLY smart and curious. It is this very characteristic that makes them coveted as pets. Ironically, it is also what makes them inappropriate as a pet. Meeting the behavioral and enrichment needs of these incredibly smart birds is difficult. A behaviorally unhealthy bird may become aggressive, destructive, or even sick.
Add to this the fact that Blue and Gold Macaws can live for over 60 years, and the bird often becomes an unbearable burden even for well-intentioned owners. In fact, the four Blue and Gold Macaws in the zoo’s collection came from such circumstances. The keepers responsible for the daily care of our Macaws are tasked with keeping them behaviorally and medically sound. Having flexible and varied perching options will help immensely with this goal.
1 ACCR - Animal Care, Conservation, and Research