By: Will Coggin
News Outlet: The Oklahoman 

Two of Oklahoma City’s newest residents, Asian elephants Bamboo and Chai, arrived safely recently at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden and will join five other members of their critically endangered species. Despite the controversy generated during their move from Seattle, it highlights the positive work that zoos do on behalf of animals.

The animal rights fringe has been working overtime to generate public outrage against zoos, marine parks and aquariums in America. While these extremists attempt to pass off their positions as promoting “animal welfare,” the irony is that the same institutions they have targeted are an important force behind animal conservation efforts across the world.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is taking meaningful action to ensure that endangered elephants will be around for future generations. The zoo supports elephant conservation efforts like the PanEco Foundation in Sumatra and has teamed up with more than 100 other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facilities in powering the “96 Elephants Campaign,” which works to stop the illegal ivory trade.

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., funds a far-reaching conservation campaign that breeds and releases nearly extinct animals (including bird, horse and ferret species) into the wild. Through the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Conservation Fund, the zoo funds projects aimed at preventing the extinction of pandas in China. The zoo is able to raise this money through its panda exhibit that attracts millions of visitors each year. Best of all, since the zoo is free to the public, it is easily accessible for people who want to see this unique species up close.

AZA members also fund conservation efforts to protect marine species. The organization sponsors a campaign to end dolphin fishing in Japan and funds rescue, rehabilitation and release programs for whales, sea turtles and manatees. The widespread support for animal conservation efforts among zoos and aquariums show that these institutions are actively working to ensure the populations of the animals they house are sustained or expanded for future generations.

The conservation efforts mentioned are only a few of the many examples of the exceptional efforts on behalf of animals that have been funded by animal exhibitors. But their work is opposed on ideological grounds by radical animal rights activists who are working to shutter the marine parks, zoos and aquariums.

Zoos and aquariums provide many Americans with the only opportunity they will have to see an elephant, a panda or a dolphin up close — not many families can afford a safari. The war on zoos and marine parks is really a war on the ability of future generations to encounter these creatures, appreciate them, and in some cases, even become motivated to work on behalf of these species.

While animal rights groups mount vindictive campaigns against these facilities, the rest of us should reject their extreme agenda and be thankful that seven Asian elephants are safe and can be seen in Oklahoma City.