Anthropology Seminar presented by Paul Mason: An anthropologist at the zoo
“What do you think about animals in captivity?” The question has been frequently posed to me since commencing work at Taronga Conservation Society Australia. I am sympathetic to the concerns of people who raise it. I too have visited zoos and felt discomfort watching pacing, overgrooming, and displacement behaviours. In answer to this question, Zookeepers readily point to the cultivation of generous habitat spaces for zoo animals as well as the efforts that go into enrichment designed to benefit animal wellbeing. The resources and human labour involved in maintaining each animal at a zoo are enormous. Volunteering with a zookeeper for a day allows one to observe firsthand how much work goes into optimal nutrition, exhibit hygiene, animal care, breeding, enrichment construction and placement, and health and safety. As an anthropologist, my views on keeping animals in captivity are informed by examining the constellations of human behaviour entangled in zoo-based conservation.
About the Speaker
Paul Mason is a cultural anthropologist working in conservation education at Taronga Conservation Society Australia. He has conducted community-based research in Indonesia and Brazil for his PhD thesis at Macquarie University, global health research with the Woolcock Institute in Vietnam and the Burnet Institute in Papua New Guinea