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Taking into account conservation efforts, animal quality of life and the variety of species on offer, here our pick of the best zoos in the world.
More than just attractions
Around the world, species populations are declining at an alarming rate. Official figures predict that by 2050, half of the Earth's species could be extinct due to global warming and loss of habitat. Mass extinction on this level has not been seen since the dinosaurs. Given the worrying situation, zoos are becoming more than simply pleasant attractions for people to see exotic animals, but are increasingly taking on a political role. Many zoos actively research and even lead conservation projects, pioneer breeding programs which help to save endangered animals from extinction, as well as act as a key resource for educating the public. So, while it's sometimes sad to see animals in captivity, zoos offer us a timely reminder that if we don't act now to preserve our natural landscapes, these majestic animals will never live outside of captivity.
San Diego Zoo - USA
The zoo strives to create an environment as close to the animal's natural habitat as possible with big expansive enclosures and lush greenery. There are giant pandas, gorillas, monkeys and elephants among the 3,700 animals living here. They are also pioneers in the conservation effort - the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is based here. It's the largest zoo-based multidisciplinary research effort in the world and there are over 200 scientists conducting research and leading conservation efforts around the world.
Chester Zoo - England
The UK's most visited zoo and one of its largest has over 15,000 animals to see. If that's not enough, there are daily talks by wildlife experts and it hosts regular events for all ages, such as masterclasses, guided tours and training camps for children who can help the keepers carry out their daily tasks.
Melbourne Zoo - Australia
80 percent of Australia's wildlife is endemic and Melbourne Zoo is one of the few places to see so many of these unique and rare animals up close. It houses more than 320 animal species endemic to Australia as well as many more from around the world. There's also a butterfly house, seminars by wildlife experts and a daily Q&A session with the keepers during which you find out more about the magnificent animals they care for.
Beijing Zoo - China
The Beijing Zoo is known for housing rare and endangered animals. Those endemic to China include the giant panda, the red panda, the golden snub-nosed monkey, the South China tiger, white-lipped deer, crested ibis, Chinese alligator, and Chinese giant salamander. Outside of the endemic species, the Siberian tiger and snow leopard are among the zoo's most prized inhabitants.