We all love baby animals. No matter what the animal is – if it’s a baby, it’s cute. So how do zoos capitalise when there is a newborn, and what does it mean for that species in the long term?
There is no doubt that a newborn baby at a zoo can create a lot of interest and zoos will make sure that they get as much attention as possible. The zoo’s publicity machine will go into overdrive to create a buzz, and the more cute the animal the more interest there will be from the general public. A critically endangered newly hatched Kroombit Tinker tadpole will not get any attention compared to a newly born elephant – and yet the significance of that tadpole is immeasurably more important for the survival of that species. For the elephant there will be a naming competition, media appearances, 24 hour web cam, and day-by-day news reports on its progress until the big day when the calf goes onto public display. And if that isn’t enough celebrity status for the newborn – well just wait until its first birthday party! The tadpole however, well its grown legs and looks a little more like a frog – and you may never hear about it. Ok, maybe too extreme of an example but hopefully you get my point. Cute is king and incredibly profitable for a zoo if handled in the right way, and in the long run that is beneficial to the Kroombit Tinker Frog too.
Knut the famous polar bear from the Berlin zoo increased that zoo’s visitors two fold and no doubt put the plight of the polar bear front of mind of all of those who went to visit him. It’s also fair to say that his shock death at the age of four, in front of 600 people, also opened up some important conversations about how to manage the balance between fame and publicity (profits) and the health and welfare of animals. Whether those lessons have been learned will be answered when we all draw our attention to the newly born polar bear cub at Sea World on the Gold Coast.
Baby animals signify hope. Baby animals give scientists the opportunity to learn about that species and give us all the opportunity to celebrate in the success of perhaps taking that species one step back from the brink of extinction. Popular baby animals also signify profit and give zoos the opportunity to exploit that animal for monetary gain, which if done with balance and care can benefit all endangered animals. So when paying your entry price to go view a zoo’s latest cute furry bundle, remember you’ve possibly just helped to save a less pretty species as well.