From all the definitions of habitat I’ve heard or read about, the one that I agree the most is provided by Janine Benyus in the wonderful book, The Secret Language and Remarkable Behavior of Animals, according to her “A habitat is a place where an animal finds what it needs to survive.More than a geographical place, a habitat IS all the opportunities and challenges an animal faces including competition, climate, food availability, predators and a host of other conditions that can’t be described on the map. “Through the wonders of natural selection each survival machine is custom crafted to excel in its particular constellation of living conditions. It’s body and behavior echo the habitat it evolved in.”
The reality is that the only way of saving animals is by saving their habitats. It is true that every year more pieces of land are getting protected status or are declared natural refugees, but it is still not enough to protect them from extinction. Animals are running out of space, and in places where they do have space, their habitat has been severely degraded.
Based on some reports we are losing around 50,000 species every year due to climate changes, land degradation, and tropical deforestation among other things. This is really catastrophic since at this pace approx 25% of all species will be extinct in a few years according to scientists. That’s why many people see zoos as modern day “arks,” trying to protect entire evolutionary lines from disappearing, with most of the great work being done behind the scenes. What we see when we visit those parks is just a small part of this huge conservation project.
But as much as we do to try to recreate natural conditions, animals belong to the wild, and by staying in zoos they are missing an important part of the evolutionary process: they are protected from natural predators and receiving their food without having to hunt it, among other things. This obviously weakens the animal’s capacity to survive in the wild. For this reason many zoos are working with the hope that one day they will be able to release these animals back into their habitats, but with the rate of destruction will those habitats still exist?
About Photography In Zoos:
At the beginning of the first part of this post I said that zoos are great places to photograph wild animals, and indeed they are. If you are really interested in doing so, you might want to bring the right equipment. Long lenses would be ideal, but you can also get great pictures with the new powerful point and shoot cameras. Animals are more active early morning or late afternoon and you might want to read about the different species to know what to expect.