By Erika Stutzman
Disappointing news from the Denver Zoo: A female South African lion known as Natal, almost 16 years old, was euthanized after a struggle with cancer. Two other lions, almost the same age, are showing signs of major illnesses as well.
According to the zoo, the median life span of lions in zoos is 16.8 years, while lions in the wild live about 15 years. There's nothing to suggest that the big cats are getting anything but fine care at the zoo.
Deaths in zoos and similar facilities always make news when the animals are well known to their human attendees. Perhaps another reason is because of the necessary, and not always comfortable, relationship between humans, animals, the natural environment and zoos.
We understand the point of view of animal rights advocates concerned with the existence of zoos -- or any effort people make to be entertained by animals. We get it. But we think the overwhelming good that zoos can do -- from educating us all about animals to serious research and conservation efforts -- outweighs those concerns.
The Denver Zoo this week announced that it's joining a growing consortium of institutions working to combat the illegal wildlife trade. That effort, involving 40 zoos and programs and 36 countries, is bolstered by $10 million in federal money to assist African countries with anti-poaching efforts to protect elephants, rhinos and other wildlife.
"What we are seeing is unprecedented and seems to be gaining speed. The demand for bushmeat, exotic pets and illegal ivory is causing an extinction crisis. More....