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Why I Believe in the Houston Zoo

Economics, my dad said as we sat at the dinner table talking about the state of the natural world. It drives everything.

Yeah, I countered, but, can’t people see that eventually, if they keep overfishing or tearing down the forests, they are going to run out of their source of income?

Economics, my dad said again, drives everything.

I rolled my eyes.

But not everyone chooses to live with long-term thinking. Not everyone is playing the infinite game, he continued. And not everyone has the resources to fish sustainably or find a job that is environmentally conscious.

I nodded.

But if economics drives everything, isn’t there a way to let people get money while simultaneously protecting the environment? I pressed on.

Like, maybe there could be a SCUBA excursion site in the place of a fishing town so that fishermen could have another way to earn money besides overfishing and tourists could learn about the amazing fish and animals. Isn’t that possible?

My dad tapped his nose with one hand and pointed at me with the other: I had hit the nail on the head.

Ecotourism, he said.

Ecotourism Ecotourism is, as defined by the Global Ecotourism Network, responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and creates knowledge through the education of all involved.

Many believe, myself included, that it is the key to protecting endangered animals and habitats in the wild.

Because economics is at the heart of most decisions that people make in life, trying to enforce conservation without a financial incentive has proven difficult if not impossible.

Why would impoverished fishermen sacrifice a part of their daily catch if they are struggling to feed themselves and their families? Or why would communities that harvest palm oil change what they are doing because the habitats of some orangutans have been disturbed by the palm oil plantations?

In other words, why should anyone care about the environment?

I often struggled with this question. I knew that no single person could convince an entire community to change their lifestyles by sharing sob stories about animals in the wild. And I knew people would not be convinced to sacrifice their resources and food if their morals were shamed either.

But when my dad introduced me to the concept of ecotourism, I realized it was a jackpot.

How can we get people who are desperate for money to stop harming the environment? By creating a greater financial incentive to protect it.

Animals in the Wild One of the reasons why I chose to make a marketing video for the Houston Zoo as my project is because I believe in the power of ecotourism.

And while visiting the Houston Zoo might not precisely qualify as ecotourism, it holds many of the same principles. Using the definition of ecotourism above, I am going to show you how zoos, specifically the Houston Zoo can benefit the natural world even while remaining in an urban setting.

Ecotourism:

  • conserves the environment,

  • sustains the well-being of the local people, and

  • creates knowledge through the education of all involved.

The Houston Zoo conserves the environment by

  • giving out only compostable cutlery and to-go boxes in their onsite restaurants,

  • housing phone recycling centers to reduce the mining of coltan and other metals in the habitats of gorillas,

  • rehabilitating and returning injured or sick sea turtles, and

  • many other things as well.

Every ticket, membership, donation, and purchase made towards the Houston Zoo helps contribute to the work of over 45 conservation partners worldwide. These international conservation organizations provide work for locals in their respective countries while protecting the native animals there as well.

And finally, when visitors come to see the wonderful and exotic animals at the Houston Zoo, they are also educated on the animals’ population status in the wild along with everyday things that they can do to be more sustainable (reusing plastic, recycling, shopping sustainably, etc.).

While the data is not all the time reliable, it is clear that many wildlife populations are on a noticeable decline.

It is also clear that money — economics — drives everything. That is a pretty indisputable fact.

But I believe that if pointed in the right direction, like with ecotourism or through zoos partnered with conservation organizations, economics can save the natural world.


This post is part of the marketing videography project that I am undertaking in October. If you are interested in learning more about my project, click here.


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