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"The New Zoos" Guide & Resources

Today's zoos have taken on a new look. With it comes a new philosophy -- work being done in "new zoos" can help wild animal populations survive and thrive. Where zoo residents were once captured from the wild, today's captive breeding programs are helping to replenish wild populations. And knowledge gained by studying animals in zoos is helping scientists learn how to protect many wild animals whose habitat is shrinking. Join Scientific American Frontiers and host Alan Alda on a tour of today's "new zoos."

Here are the topics and running times of stories on this show and a brief description of related activities you'll find in this online teaching guide.

  • Polar Bear Picnic (running time 8:07) -- Enrichment is not just an education catchword -- in the San Diego Zoo, it's polar bears' way of life. Discussion and Activities: More About the Polar Bear Plunge; Design a habitat; Measure thermal properties of color.

  • The Wilder, the Better (running time 7:49) -- What does it take to really make an orangutan think? A psychologist at Toronto's Metro Zoo is trying to find out. Discussion and Activities: Spatial memory in primates; Mirror self-recognition studies.

  • Doctor Fish (running time 9:24) -- Check on a bridled burrfish in post-op and watch a sea lion eye exam at the New England Aquarium's Medical Center. Activity: Model hearts of fish and mammals.

  • Tuna in the Tank (running time 9:18) -- High-tech tracking of the giant bluefin tuna's travels may help save the species from extinction. Activity: Play a tracking game.

  • Zoos as Arks (running time 8:22) -- Captive breeding programs, when successful, are one way zoos ensure a future for animals on the brink of extinction. Activity: Population Paradox (graphing human population growth).

  • Return to the Wild (running time 9:47) -- Golden lion tamarins attend a jungle boot camp, where they learn survival skills that will help when they return to the wild. Discussion and Activities: The New Zoos; "If Ran the Zoo..."; Genetic Probabilities.

  • Viewer Challenge -- After you watch The New Zoos, test your viewing skills with ten questions about the show!


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.