City’s zoo expansion gains support

City%27s+zoo+expansion+gains+support

Maria A. Mejia

Welcome to the zoo The Oakland Zoo, pictured above, plans to expand borders by 56 acres and provide a much-needed veteranary clinic. The zoo hopes to increase the number of annual visitors and raise awareness of native species.

When asked to name some of the 6,717 species native to California, not one person out of 10 random Fremont students and teachers could name more than one.In order to change a statistic like that, the Oakland Zoo wants to expand to include an on-site veterinary clinic and a new exhibit called “California!” which features only wildlife indigenous to the Golden State such as mountain lions, grizzly bears and wolves. 

Zoo officials say that not only would the expansion offer up educational opportunities, but it could also create 200 new jobs in Oakland and help the city’s image.

The plan excited many at Fremont Federation of High Schools when they heard about it.

“The project can raise awareness,” said Antonio Olmedo, an Algebra teacher at Mandela Academy. “It would make somewhat of a difference.”

The zoo’s expansion plan had originally been approved in 1998, but it has been altered throughout the years. For example, the zoo reduced its proposed expansion site from 62 acres to 56 acres.

Students and staff in Fremont seem to show more support than opposition to the zoo’s expansion.

“I [go to the zoo] to see animals,” said College Preparatory & Architecture Academy junior Yadira Robles. “Right now, the zoo’s too small and not interesting enough. [Expansion could] maybe mean more visitors.”

Mandela student Matthew Harvey agrees.

“Zoos are the only chance to see [animals] even if it’s not in their natural habitat. It could use the promotion.”

Most students who support the expansion believe it will benefit Oakland’s economy by drawing in more people and could improve the city’s appearance by making Oakland known for its zoo instead of its crime.

Currently, the Oakland Zoo gets about half a million visitors a year. In a 2008 interview with the East Bay Times, the zoo’s executive director Joel Parrot predicted that the expansion, especially the “California!” exhibit would add about 50,000 to 150,000 additional visitors.

“Why wouldn’t it be better? More animals, more people!” said Media sophomore Yamilex Prieto.

Students in favor of the Oakland Zoo’s expansion argue for the zoo’s educational quality.

“It’s awesome,” said Architecture junior Stephanie Quiñones. “Kids get to feed animals, learn about them, and ride the train.”

Yet some acknowledge the hurtful effect of zoos and question whether zoos in general are a good idea.

“No two zoos are the same or treat their animals the same, just like no two people treat their pets the same,” Matthew Harvey said. “Whether [expansion] is good or bad depends on the zoo. Animals are going extinct, humans are crushing natural habitats. But in captivity, animals don’t [reproduce] as much.”

Olmedo also seemed torn over the benefits and downsides to the expansion.

“I have a two year old, and plan on having more kids,”said Olmedo. “I want them to like the Oakland Zoo, not just other zoos.”

However, Olmedo ultimately thinks the positives outweigh the negatives.

“As badly as humans are doing, animals are better off in zoos. At least someone’s taking care of them.”