Environment Forum

Will Zoo crunch bite U.S. science education?

President Barack Obama has pledged to “restore science to its rightful place” and educate a new generation of scientists able to transform America into an environmentally sustainable “green economy.”

But with endowments and private donations falling and public funds under pressure, the recession is making it harder for zoos and aquariums to keep inspiring kids in science.

My colleague Claudia Parsons has done a report on this issue which you can read here.

A new report by the National Academy of Sciences said informal learning — such as visits to zoos or other outdoor activities such as fishing or gardening — is a powerful tool in science education.

What do you think? Do zoos play a vital inspirational role for budding young scientists? And should they receive public funds at a time of crisis when needs are many and funds are few?

Environment falls as priority for Americans – Pew

2009 may not be such a green year in America after all.

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, environmental protection has fallen off sharply as a priority issue among Americans. You can see the whole survey here.

Of the 20 issues people were asked to rate in both January 2008 and January 2009, five have slipped significantly in importance as attention to the economy has surged. Protecting the environment fell the most precipitously – just 41 percent rate this as a top priority today, down from 56 percent a year ago,” Pew said.

It said green concerns and others such as illegal immigration had been overtaken by growing anxiety over the souring economy.

Chinese turtle species depends on two very old zoo guests


The fate of a Chinese species may rest on whether the turtles in this photo mate.   

Biologists believe only four Yangtze giant softshell turtles are left on the planet.  So this month they shipped a more than 80-year-old female that had been living in China’s Changsha Zoo more than 600 miles to the only known male in China, who is more than 100 years old and lives at the Suzhou Zoo.

“I hate to call this a desperation move, but it really was,” said Rick Hudson, a conservation biologist at the Fort Worth, Texas Zoo who helped coordinate the move. “With only one female known worldwide, and given that we have lost three captive specimens over the past two years, what choice did we have?”