2/28/2019 Peter Durantine

Zoos Focus on Animal Quality of Life Around the World

At first glance, “Scientific Foundations of Zoos and Aquariums: Their Role in Conservation and Research” sounds like a title drafted to appeal just to scientists, but a Franklin & Marshall College professor and co-editor says the book is written for a general readership.

“There’s everything in here from the traditional scientific review of what we learned about dolphins in captivity to a story of a black cockatoo that gets hit by a car and how the zoo rescues and rehabilitates her,” Professor of Psychology Meredith Bashaw said. 

The chair of F&M’s Biological Foundations of Behavior program, Bashaw said the content includes a first-person story of an animal, several first-person stories about how scientists became involved in conservation research, and traditional scientific reports. “It’s a good mix,” she said.

  • “There’s everything in here from the traditional scientific review of what we learned about dolphins in captivity to a story of a black cockatoo that gets hit by a car and how the zoo rescues and rehabilitates her,” Professor Bashaw says. “There’s everything in here from the traditional scientific review of what we learned about dolphins in captivity to a story of a black cockatoo that gets hit by a car and how the zoo rescues and rehabilitates her,” Professor Bashaw says. Image Credit: Peter Durantine

Published by Cambridge University Press and released in February 2019, “Scientific Foundations” is a 669-page book edited by Bashaw, Allison Kaufman, a research scientist at the University of Connecticut, and Terry Maple, a Georgia Institute of Technology emeritus and professor-in-residence at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Bashaw, whose primary research in animal behavior is animal social relationships and captive welfare, co-authored a chapter, “Empowering Zoo Animals.” 

“They’re stuck in a zoo exhibit, so one of the things we’re trying to do to improve welfare is to give them some agency,” she said. “Control, of course, is a little better than choice, but at the very least, animals should have choices about where to go, what to do, and how to spend their days.”

Bashaw also shared authorship on the book’s conclusive chapter, “Cultivating Science in World Zoos and Aquariums,” with Maple.

“It’s a book that came together as a group of zoo scientists in the U.S. realized we don’t spend a lot of time talking to our international counterparts,” Bashaw said. “Zoos all over the world are doing cool stuff, but there wasn’t a way for us to talk to them or get those stories very easily.”

Now, with this first edition of “Scientific Foundations,” there is. The book helped launch an initiative for international symposia at zoo conferences in the U.S., Australia and Europe. Bashaw said the zoos in New York, San Diego, and Sydney, Australia are under consideration as a symposium location.

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