Teacher instructions: Euthanasia or Birth Control?



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Teacher instructions: Euthanasia or Birth Control?

FOR Biology (9th grade)



  • Students can read NYT article (or shorter version from Science site -- teacher choice).  

  • Depending upon student ability, model or assign taking notes on salient points.

  • ACT-style prompt asks students to choose a position.  Model or assign T-chart or other organizational tool.

  • Have students write their responses.

  • Students should evaluate their own responses, color coding the appropriate components and grading according to the ELA Persuasive Rubric.


Student Writing Prompt

One function of a zoo is to preserve diversity in the gene pools of endangered animals. Since zoos have limited resources, zoos use of one of two methods to control the sizes of their animal populations. In the U.S., the method is contraception. Apes take human birth control pills, while other animals eat hormone-spiked food or have slow-releasing hormones implanted in their bodies. The second option, used in European zoos, is to let the animals breed and raise their young, and then euthanize the unneeded

In your essay, take a position on this question. You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different view of this question. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

ACT Writing Prompt Rubric

Is position clearly stated?

Underline with blue

Is position backed up with at least two reasons (at least one should not be taken from prompt)?

Do these reasons contain "rich and relevant" details?

Underline with yellow

YOUR POSITION GRADE:

How could you have improved this?

Did you refute at least one counter-argument?

Underline with red

YOUR COMPLEXITY GRADE:

How could you have improved this?

Is the essay clearly written and reasonably well-organized?

YOUR ORGANIZATION GRADE:

How could you have improved this?

YOUR LANGUAGE and CONVENTIONS GRADE:

How could you have improved this?



Qualia

http://membercentral.aaas.org/blogs/qualia/controversial-choice-zoos-birth-control-or-euthanasia

A controversial choice for zoos: Birth control or euthanasia?


August 16, 2012 | Author:AAAS member -- Freelance Writer Mary Bates, Ph.D.

Nothing draws crowds to a zoo like the birth of an adorable baby animal. But zoos must deal with limited capacity and the need to preserve diversity in the gene pools of endangered species. A New York Times report (see below) examines the difficult choices that zoos worldwide make when it comes to exotic animal reproduction.western lowland gorilla

There are two ways zoos can control their animal populations: in the U.S., the method is contraception. Apes take human birth control pills, while other animals eat hormone-spiked food or have slow-releasing hormones implanted in their bodies. The second option, used in European zoos, is to let the animals breed and raise their young, and then euthanize the unneeded offspring.


Birth control is used for more than half of the female Western lowland gorillas held in 50 or so American zoos, according to the New York Times report. (Photo: Peggy Mihelich/AAAS)
It's a shocking idea to many Americans, but European zookeepers argue that euthanasia is the more humane option. It helps control the population and recreate the extremely high mortality rate that most young animals face in the wild. Bengt Holst, director of conservation for the Copenhagen Zoo, explains why euthanizing the offspring of exotic animals helps those creatures retain aspects of their natural behavior:

"We’d rather they have as natural behavior as possible. We have already taken away their predatory and antipredatory behaviors. If we take away their parenting behavior, they have not much left.”

In many European zoos, animals are allowed to raise their young until an age at which they would naturally separate from their parents. If the offspring do not fit into breeding plans for the species, they are euthanized.

For the American public, the more palatable choice is birth control. While it's safe for some, side effects can and do occur. Great apes tolerate birth control pills well, because they are most similar to humans, but some big cats and canines can develop uterine infections or tumors as a result of hormonal birth control implants.

European zoos that use euthanasia for population control cite the health risks of contraception as well as the enrichment of parenting. As Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times puts it, "...in Europe, some zookeepers would rather euthanize unneeded offspring after they mature than deny the animal parents the experience of procreating and nurturing their young."

It cannot be an easy choice for zookeepers, and it is controversial among the public and conservationists. What do you think?



Zookeepers around the world, facing limited capacity and pressure to maintain diverse and

vibrant collections of endangered species, are often choosing between two controversial

methods: birth control and euthanasia.


In the United States, the choice is contraception. Chimps take human birth control pills,

giraffes are served hormones in their feed, and grizzly bears have slow-releasing hormones

implanted in their forelegs. Even small rodents are included.
Cheryl Asa, who directs the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Wildlife Contraception

Center at the St. Louis Zoo, said euthanasia was not a comfortable fit for zoos here. “On an

emotional level, I can’t imagine doing it and I can’t imagine our culture accepting it,” she

said.
Dr. Asa sees contraception as a better approach. “By preventing the birth of animals beyond

carrying capacity,” she said, “more animals can be well cared for.”

But in Europe, some zookeepers would rather euthanize unneeded offspring after they

mature than deny the animal parents the experience of procreating and nurturing their

young.
“We’d rather they have as natural behavior as possible,” said Bengt Holst, director of

conservation for the Copenhagen Zoo. “We have already taken away their predatory and

antipredatory behaviors. If we take away their parenting behavior, they have not much left.”

So he and many of his European counterparts generally allow animals to raise their young

until an age at which they would naturally separate from parents. It is then that zoo officials

euthanize offspring that do not figure in breeding plans.
This spring, the Copenhagen Zoo put down, by lethal injection, two leopard cubs, about 2

years old, whose genes were already overrepresented in the collective zoo population.

Leopards are considered near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature. But as part of a breeding plan to maintain the genetic diversity of this species, the

cubs’ fate was determined before they were born.


“We promised the species coordinator that the offspring would never leave the zoo,” Mr.

Holst said, meaning they would not be bred with leopards from other zoos. The Copenhagen

Zoo, he said, annually puts to death some 20 to 30 healthy exotic animals — gazelles,

hippopotamuses, and on rare occasions even chimps. The thinking is that this strategy mimics what would have occurred in the wild, where some 80 percent of feline offspring die from predation, starvation or injury, he said.


Terry Maple, the former director of Zoo Atlanta and co-editor of “Ethics on the Ark,” said

that while he knew of no studies assessing the importance of raising young to animals’ health

or well-being, observation indicated that most zoo animals are motivated and protective

parents that play frequently with offspring.


He acknowledged that American zoos once focused more on the intricacies of breeding

endangered species than on their day-to-day well-being, but said this was changing. In

meticulously planning their populations, Mr. Maple said, zoos will eventually avoid a surplus

of animals and ensure that most breed and raise offspring. “I am not saying management

euthanasia is wrong,” he said. “It is just not the best solution.”
International guidelines on the ethics of breeding zoo animals have been elusive, in part

because philosophies vary, said Dave Morgan, chairman of the Population Management

Committee at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The African association of zoos

lists euthanasia as a population management tool, whereas the precepts of Hinduism and

Buddhism make the killing of even terminally ill animals difficult.
Both the United States and Europe tolerate the euthanasia of feral cats and dogs. Euthanasia

is permitted under the American zoo association’s regulations, but is mainly reserved for ill

or elderly animals, said Steve Feldman, the association’s spokesman.
Although reliable data on the use of contraception is not kept by zoo associations, officials

say that it is much more prevalent in North America but that it is starting to expand in

Europe.
American zoos began developing contraception for highly fertile animals like lions in the

1970s, after breakthroughs in human birth control. Contraception use then expanded as it

became quite difficult for zoos to sell or give away animals they could no longer

accommodate.


This kind of family planning meant males and females no longer had to be kept apart to

avoid unwanted pregnancies, which was ideal for the transition to more natural zoo

environments. There were benefits, too, for zookeepers: hormones in contraceptives given

males can take the edge off aggressive behaviors surrounding competition for a mate, which

can result in mayhem and unsettle visitors.
There was a time when no one could have imagined that contraception would be needed for

the Mexican wolf, a species hunted nearly to extinction in the 1970s. Zoos began with only

seven survivors and bred a captive colony of nearly 300 wolves, saving the species. Ninetytwo

were reintroduced into the wild by the federal government starting in 1998, but then

four years ago, the government used up the limited space that had been allotted for the

program in New Mexico and Arizona.


So, for the last four years, birth control has helped the zoos breed selectively to maximize

genetic diversity but not run out of holding space — or Mexican wolves — as a compromise is

worked out with the states.
Genetic diversity is key to long-term species survival because it prevents inbreeding and

preserves a broad array of traits that animals might one day need to survive in the wild.

Birth control is used for more than half of the female Western lowland gorillas held in 50 or

so American zoos, said Kristen Lukas, who runs the species’ breeding plan for the zoo

association. It enables a young female to stay in her family group without the danger of

producing an inbred offspring.


Contraceptive science for most exotic animals, Dr. Asa notes, is not as advanced as for apes,

which are more closely linked to humans. And side effects can and do occur. Large cats and

canines on early hormonal implants were susceptible to uterine infections and tumors. Other

animals like elephants have trouble restarting their reproductive cycle once they come off

birth control.
European zoos that prefer euthanasia cite health risks of contraception as well as the

enrichment of parenting — although putting down an animal can sometimes be

controversial.
Denmark embraces the policy and is very open about educating its public. Germany, by

contrast, allows euthanasia only in “reasonable” circumstances, which can be hard to define,

said Lesley Dickie, executive director of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. A

few years ago at Zoo Magdeburg in northern Germany, it was discovered that a male tiger

was a hybrid of two tiger subspecies, rendering the cubs it had sired genetically useless.

When the three cubs were born, the zoo euthanized them immediately.


Dr. Dickie characterized the decision as “courageous,” but animal rights advocates disagreed

and had the zoo director and three employees prosecuted for violating the euthanasia law.

They received suspended sentences.
Even when zoos wait to euthanize animals until their parents have had a chance to raise

them, questions can come up. It might seem suspiciously convenient for zoos to destroy an

animal just after it has completed its most adorable phase — given that baby animals are a

top zoo attraction.


But Dr. Holst emphasized that the timing is dictated by nature. Zookeepers know it is time

when the young leopards start picking fights with their mother. “It may be painful for us,” he said, “but more natural to them.”






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