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Wildlife is in crisis: Between habitat destruction, poaching, and a host of other threats, populations are crashing and species are disappearing at a record clip. The historical rate of species extinction is about one in 1 million per year; today it’s one in 1,000. The population of lions in the wild has fallen by half just since 2001. Cheetahs are critically endangered, and elephant, tiger, giant tortoise, and rhino poaching are out of control. If somebody doesn’t do something fast, many of the zoos’ biggest draws will soon be extinct.

Yet if you ask leading scientists working in the field saving animals if zoos as a whole are doing enough for conservation, you’ll get an emphatic no. Amid a global extinction crisis, wildlife biologists are calling on animal parks to do more for conservation. Can city zoos shift from just displaying animals in time to save species in peril—and themselves?

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