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What to do with the S.F. Zoo?

By Gary Bogue
Friday, August 8th, 2008 at 8:34 am in Animal protection legislation, Animal rescue Organizations, San Francisco Zoo.

A story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle says the San Francisco Supes supposedly want to turn the S.F. Zoo into a facility for rescued animals.

According to a report I heard on KCBS News radio about this story on my way into work this morning, the S.F. Supervisor measure would require that any future animal acquisitions at the zoo could only be rescued animals, such as animals confiscated by law enforcement from people who owned them illegally.

The KCBS report said zoo officials say turning the zoo into a rescue facility would cost them their accreditation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and screw up their abilities to raise funds for the zoo.

As much as I totally agree that something desperately needs to be done to make the S.F. Zoo get its act together and improve the living conditions of the many animals in its care … this isn’t the way to do it.

If they lost the accreditation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, they would be getting rid of the very professional zoo association that is needed to monitor animal care at the zoo. WRONG! If they lose the presence of the AZA, then who would be providing the oversight of the animal care at the zoo? A supervisors subcommittee? I don’t think so!

Running an animal rescue facility of such an enormous size as the S.F. Zoo would be ENORMOUSLY EXPENSIVE. So who is going to pay for THAT?

What are they going to call it — the Zoo Pound?

I’m not sure there’s even anyone around who is experienced enough to manage such a large and complicated exotic animal rescue operation. I don’t think their present staffing could handle it adequately.

They need to come up with modern, state-of-the-art animal holding facilities for the zoo animals, a much better zoo management plan complete with on-going training for the staff, more refined and focused education programs, a more comprehensive and ongoing docent and volunteer program and someone who knows what the heck he/she is doing to run the place.

Believe me, that’s going to be expensive enough as it is.

Completely changing what the zoo is all about would be very nice, but the cost for that would be off the charts. And frankly, I don’t believe that would ever really happen. Just lots of supervisor committee meetings … planning, planning, planning … endless debate, debate, debate … and all the while the poor animals sit in those miserable outdated cages while their frustrated keepers do the best they can … which is never going to be good enough under the present conditions.

Something needs to be done with the zoo that is practical and achievable — NOW. Coming up with a pie-in-the-sky plan that can’t really be implemented isn’t going to solve anything. /Gary

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No Responses to “What to do with the S.F. Zoo?”

  1. Chris Burton Says:

    Hi Gary,

    Having read up on your credentials, I obviously can’t question your knowledge, experience, or desire to help animals, so please don’t take my questions as attacking or argumentative, but rather, as knowledge/clarification seeking.

    I know there are others out there with your knowledge and experience who also are against turning the zoo into a rescue facility, but I haven’t come across a reason why that makes sense to me.

    You talk about how they need the AZA accredidation to keep careful monitoring of the zoo animals, and how they don’t have people who are knowledgeable enough to run a facility like that, not to mention the money it would take. As someone who stopped going to the SF Zoo some 20 years ago upon realizing that the zoo was not taking proper care of the animals, I have to ask, aren’t the problems you mention in the zoo becoming a rescue facility the very same problems that they’ve had all along? It seems to me that if they had the money to properly run a zoo, and if they had properly trained people who knew how to care for these animals, and if the AZA really was doing a good job of monitoring the care of these animals, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    While there may be large obstacles to overcome in order to turn the zoo into a rescue facility, don’t they need to basically address the very same problems just to make it a decent zoo? And since these conditions at the zoo have been going on for many, many years now, how many chances do we give them to try and do it right and to take the welfare of the animals more seriously?

    I personally do not know enough of the ins and outs of a rescue facility to make a strong case for why the zoo should become one, but I feel like I have yet to see a strong case for why it should not be one either.

    For me, the bottom line is, what’s best for the animals? They never asked to be kept in cages. The least we can do is to take whatever steps necessary in order to provide them the best life we can while they’re in our care.

    Thank you for your time.

  2. Ann Says:

    Chris raises some good points. If the SF Zoo is currently accredited I have to say I don’t think very highly of the AZAs standards (or enforcement).

    Also, the stories I’ve heard don’t explain why the AZA would yank a zoo’s accreditation if they became a rescue organization. Is it because zoos are required to participate in inter-zoo breeding programs? When it comes to highly threatened animals that is a very important role of zoos and sadly, I can see that rescued animals would not be good candidates for breeding.

    Also, rescued exotic animals are often old and sick animals who’ve been abandoned by their creepy “owners”. Keeping those animals adds even more expenses to the zoos budget. I don’t want my tax money, admissions fees, or charitable donations paying to support the cast-off indulgences of people with more money than brains. (I already spend enough of my taxes and fuel costs supporting the wealthy.)

  3. Dave Says:


    Might Gary be saying that running a rescue zoo is a more specialized proposition than running the current zoo, thus requiring more resources and expertise, for one thing? As the zoo isn’t doing such a good job under normal circumstances, why add another layer of difficulty?

    What I don’t understand is the connection, as I hear it from the rescue proponents, between a better run zoo and turning the zoo into a rescue zoo. They are two seperate things. The proponents seem to be saying that making the zoo a rescue zoo is equivalent to making the animals the priority.

    It’s unfortunate that while some are playing politics, the animals are still on the back burner: “meetings … planning, planning, planning … endless debate, debate, debate …”.


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