Purpose And Value Of Insect Zoos

Live insects are one of the best teaching tools for children and adults alike. Despite an enormous range and intensity of educational, research, and conservation activities, most insectariums and butterfly displays offer some level of educational programming that promotes the appreciation and understanding of insect life. Aside from the actual live exhibits and graphics, these programs take the form of informal presentations, hands-on opportunities to touch live animals, formal classes and lectures from kindergarten to university level, teacher training, field trips, outreach programs, printed educational materials, multimedia materials, Web-based resources, and special events such as insect fairs and film festivals. In addition to these more lofty goals, insects have proven to be enormously popular with the public and thus are used to generate increased visitation and revenue for various types of nonprofit organizations and commercial enterprises.

Basic and applied research is carried out by some facilities, resulting in presentations at conferences and publications in conference proceedings and scientific journals. Several insectariums participate in captive breeding programs for threatened or endangered species such as the American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus, the Italian ground beetle, Chrysocarabus olympiae, the giant wetas, Deinacrida spp., and the Polynesian tree snails, Partula spp. For example, London Zoo currently manages six invertebrate conservation programs, involving 38 species. In situ conservation programs are also supported by a number of insectariums and their parent organizations.

Some of the early insectariums began with the immediate goal of raising food for insectivorous zoo animals such as the Tama Zoo's Insectarium, which opened in its first form in 1961. It was felt that decreases in wild populations of grasshoppers due to widespread use of insecticides required the development of stable food sources. An earlier insectarium at Tokyo's Toshima-en Amusement Park was developed with the idea of using its live insect residents for making nature films.

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