The Use of Zoos

Over the past two centuries, zoos have evolved from places for flaunting wealth to centers of learning and preservation.

One summer day at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Erin Roembke was preparing to teach a group of visitors about the honey badger. But before she could begin, a young boy from the crowd spoke up.

What are their names? he asked, eyes wide with interest.

Their names are Sandy and Reilly, Erin said.

Do they have a favorite food?

Reilly prefers rats, and Sandy prefers smelt, Erin replied.

Interacting with curious guests is a key aspect of Erin’s job as a zookeeper. She works with African primates and carnivores, and her specialties include bat-eared foxes, banded mongooses, honey badgers, and radiated tortoises. After a few years years connecting with these animals, Erin has come to think of them as family.

Bonnie Kemp, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s director of communication, says the zoo aims to get visitors thinking about preserving nature and saving wild animals. The staff tries to create a fun and educational experience for its guests, with a strong focus on appealing to youth.  

This sort of conservation-based mission is common among zoos today, but that hasn’t always been the case.

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