How to Handle Zoo Requests
What do you do if a zoo wants your San Clemente Island Goats?
Zoos have traditionally focused on exotic animal conservation, but more are starting to take notice of rare breeds of livestock. We are starting to get inquiries from zoos about San Clemente Island goats. And we're referring the zoos to our breeder list.
Zoos reach a lot of people. A small zoo may host nearly one million visitors per year. A place like the National Zoo sees far more. So for San Clemente Island goats, it's a great chance for public education and exposure. They need the publicity.
Some zoos will also need breed stewards to help educate the zoo staff and volunteers about the breed. This can give you the opportunity to point out the unique features of these goats, which will then be passed on to the public.
When approached by a zoo, your first concern is whether or not they will provide a suitable home for your goats. Some zoos are accredited by the AZA. To obtain this accreditation, they need to maintain a very high and strict standard of animal care. However, most zoos are not accredited by the AZAmany excellent zoos do not have the budgeted manpower to go through the accreditation process, but they still maintain an extremely high level of animal care. If you want to scope out a non-accreditated zoo and can't visit it, check with the USDA to see if it's licensed (link will be posted soon). You can also ask local goat breeders to check the zoo out for you, and get their opinions on standards of care.
Zoos face the challenge of having older goats who are past the point of enjoying zoo life, and who are no longer suitable for exhibit. The zoo will then need a good home for the goat. You may wish to volunteer to take back your goat once it's past its prime.
Some zoos may be open to new ideas, some may not. When a zoo first contacts you, tell them what your expectations are. All of them. This enables the zoo to make an educated decision of whether or not to persue your goats, and neither party will face any disappointment if either had other terms in mind. Cut to the quick, and only get into serious negotiations as long as both sides are perfectly happy. A good zoo will write up a letter of agreement that addresses the verbal agreement between you and the zoo.
Zoos with Breeding Programs
If you sell or give breeding does to a zoo, you may wish to have an arrangement with them of what to do with the offspring. Many zoos are up for this, as the cute baby goats from their breeding program will need new homes once they wean anyway. You could suggest:
You may also wish to ask the zoo to trade-out does for wethers if they discontinue their breeding program.
- That any kids needing homes go to you.
- That any kids needing homes only go to zoos that will breed them.
- That any kids needing homes go to 4-H members (We can help with 4-H assignments).
Zoos Without Breeding Programs
If a zoo is not interested in a breeding program for San Clemente Island goats, it would be best to supply them with non-breeding goats, or the "extras" that you might have whose gene pools are well-represented within your herd or other herds.
How Does It Work in Practice?
The zoo calls you up, you talk goat. Remember, voice your expectations so that no one wastes their time.
If the zoo is close, they may wish to see your goats and barn before any real discussion goes on.
If travel is an issue, the zoo may want to do as much as possible over the phone before they visit.
Be prepared to discuss who pays for what, how the goat gets to the zoo, how they plan to breed a doe (if breeding), what happens to the goat or offspring, who pays for the vet, whether or not they require disbudding, whatever. Get it all on the table from the git-go. Don't expect too much. . . the zoo is just buying a goat.
The zoo contact will run it by the curator, who hopefully thinks it all sounds good.
The zoo's goat personnel firm up the arrangements. This should just be a clarification of expectations, and maybe a bit of brainstorming to figure out the best way to accomplish what you both agree upon.
You get a letter of agreement, tighten it up on both ends where necessary, and the zoo vet talks to your vet.
Next comes a barrage of veterinary stuffzoos keep a very high level of biosecurity (as should we all), and the tests may be more detailed than your average export/import tests. The vets take care of fulfilling the requirements, so that's easy. But it all may take a bit longer than "normal."
Your goat then goes to the zoo (how it gets there was already arranged in the beginning, right?)
Voilà! San Clemente Island goats go public! Just think. . . a million people learning about these goats. . .
The zoo connection isn't for everyone, but if it's done right, it can be a great way of promoting responsible stewardship.
We now have a little zoo experience under our belt! Please contact us if you need more help.
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