World’s zoos unite over climate change
Monday 30 November 2009
Zoos and aquariums will become the last places on Earth to see species such as polar bears and coral if climate change negotiations fail at Copenhagen, warns the global zoo community.
Over 200 zoos belonging to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) have signed a petition calling on governments to set targets of atmospheric CO2 below 350ppm in order to prevent the next mass extinction.
Leading scientists and conservationists, including Sir David Attenborough, agreed at a crisis meeting in July that coral reefs undergo irreversible damage beyond the 350ppm boundary.
“From seahorses to golden-headed lion tamarins, zoos and aquariums play a crucial role in breeding endangered species for reintroduction into the wild. However, the climate change threat to the natural world is so severe that we’re rapidly losing suitable habitats for these species,” says Paul Pearce-Kelly, Senior Curator at The Zoological Society of London and Chair of the WAZA Climate Change Task Force.
“The urgent protection of ecosystems, which act as natural carbon sinks, is vital if humanity is to avoid the fate of runaway climate change. Our only hope is that world leaders respond to this reality and take the appropriate action,” says WAZA President, Dr. Mark Penning.
He adds: “Climate change is not just another issue for the zoo and aquarium community to address, it is the chess board which will determine the outcome of all our conservation efforts.”
Zoos engage with over 600 million visitors a year, giving people their first experience of some of our planets most remarkable species. If government leaders are unable to broker a deal, for many people zoos will be their last chance to experience the diversity of life on earth.