Captivity for Conservation? Zoos at a Crossroads

Jozef Keulartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


This paper illuminates a variety of issues that speak to the question of whether ‘captivity for conservation’ can be an ethically acceptable goal of the modern zoo. Reflecting on both theoretical disagreements (animal protectionists vs. wildlife conservationists) and practical challenges (the small percentage of endangered species actually exhibited in zoos, disappointing success of reintroduction programs), the paper explains why the ‘Noah’s Ark’ paradigm is being replaced by an alternative ‘integrated approach.’ It explores the changes in the zoo’s core tasks that the new paradigm implies. And it pays special attention to the changes that would have to be made in zoos’ collection policies: connection with in situ projects, emphasizing local species and the local biogeographical region, exchange of animals among zoos and between zoos and wildlife, and a shift towards smaller species. Finally the question will be addressed whether the new paradigm will achieve a morally acceptable balance between animal welfare costs and species conservation benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-351
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Animal welfare
  • Future zoo
  • Metapopulation management
  • Species conservation

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