Getting Better All the Time: Humility, Civility, and the Public Trust
By James F. Gesualdi
"Be lesser, do more." —Ryan Holiday
"Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else." —Madeleine L'Engle
Continuously improving animal welfare and enhancing animal well-being is one key to the sustainability of the zoological community. This is essential to maintain the goodwill of the public and uphold the public trust. Zoological organizations—be they public, not-for-profit, or publicly traded—require public support to continue operations and to maintain the moral authority to effectively conduct conservation, education, and research efforts. Fortunately, many zoological organizations, especially accredited ones, are important contributors to their local communities, and often enjoy strong support at home.
The Public Interest and the Public Trust
The Financial Times provides a useful definition of the "public trust" in a business context, which makes sense for any community or organization. I've substituted zoological terms for "business" in the definition:
Public trust in the [zoological community or a zoological organization] is the degree to which the public believes that the [zoological community or a zoological organization] will act in a particular manner because the [zoological community or a zoological organization] has included the public's interest into its own. It is a critical ingredient for social cooperation and market efficiency and a cause for deep concern when it is absent or threatened. (ft.com/lexicon)
The public's interest in zoological animals is focused on the animals' well-being. There are other public interests as well, but animals are at the heart of them, and of sole focus here. Animal appearances, the condition of zoological facilities, safety issues, or high-profile incidents may spark (rightly or not) public concern, even if instigated by a zoological community critic. Each instance, however seemingly insignificant or incorrect, and our handling of that situation makes an impact on the public trust. Over time, the cumulative effect becomes evident.
The primacy of our overriding commitment to the animals in our care and their wild brethren informs everything we do. Animals thriving in our care provide the most effective demonstration of the zoological organization's (or community's) expertise. This, in turn, burnishes our creditability with the public and reinforces our position as advocates for animals, because we are good stewards of those in our care.
Remembering It Is About the Animals
Practicing humility and civility as we meet our challenges and engage each other, including the public and our critics, makes us even worthier of upholding the public trust. As legendary reporter Bob Woodward recently stated, in the political context where the public trust is critical, "humility works." In the zoological world, it is our appreciation for the natural world and living beings that grounds us. Acknowledging that we are working to make things better, while understanding zoological settings are different, keeps us sensitive to any concerns about animals wherever they exist. Respectful engagement with visitors, the public, and each other exhibits a consistency of compassion for all, which reinforces our efforts on behalf of animals.
Caring for, protecting, and preserving animals is daunting work. Putting ourselves in the position of serving animals (and people) puts them ahead of our "smaller" interests. In this age of distraction, remaining focused on those things that matter most keeps us involved in the work at hand. It is through these efforts that we lift up animals, others, and ourselves.
"Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners…"
—Pier Massimo Forni
©2016 James F. Gesualdi, P.C. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. This is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share the good you are doing (as only you can), or with any comments or questions on this column or suggestions for future ones.
Excellence Beyond Compliance invites you to a Special Ask Animal Care Teleseminar with Bernadette Juarez, deputy administrator, USDA, APHIS, Animal Care, scheduled Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 1 p.m. EST. To submit questions or register, email us at
email@example.com. There is no fee for the program.
Something Fishy Is Going On
By Dr. Rob Jones, "The Aquarium Vet"
Last month, we visited the AZA conference in beautiful San Diego, and what a fabulous week it was. There were many great discussions about the future of aquariums. I would like to thank Jon Prange, Gary Priest, and San Diego Zoo Global Academy for the wonderful function they hosted during the conference, when we had the pleasure of meeting many Academy subscribers. The e-learning community is expanding, and what a wonderful era we live in to have these capabilities.
At AZA, I presented information on a new resource that is available to the zoo and aquarium industry. Dr. Jon Daly and I have been researching elasmobranch (sharks and rays) reproduction since 2004. In particular, we have been developing the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in elasmobranchs. ART—such as sperm collection and quality assessment, sperm cryopreservation, artificial insemination, and monitoring female reproductive condition and gestation—could potentially be used to complement existing breeding programs for elasmobranchs in aquaria. This was largely brought about because of a total ban on wild collection of grey nurse or sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) by Australia's federal government in 2002.
One of the critical issues is the lack of detailed information about the reproductive tract anatomy of both male and female elasmobranch species. The new Elasmobranch Reproduction Resource Centre (ERRC) is designed to be an open-access repository of this information. Other articles regarding elasmobranch ART are also available. The ERRC is hosted by The Aquarium Vet.
Species that we have information about will be uploaded. There is a template that can be downloaded for new species. Contributors will follow the template and submit information and pictures to the ERRC, to be uploaded. All contributions will be fully acknowledged. The ERRC will become a useful international resource for the elasmobranch community. Visit theaquariumvet.com. We are also pleased to announce the release of the seventh module of the E-quarist™ course, which is on elasmobranchs. This has been eagerly awaited, and it fits in well with the new ERRC.
I am currently in Vancouver, British Columbia at the International Aquarium Congress—the "Olympics" of aquarium conferences, since until now it has only been held every four years. At this IAC, 500 attendees are representing aquariums from around the globe. The general consensus is that aquariums are playing—and will continue to play—a vital role in spreading the news about climate change and rising sea levels. Until next month, wishing you all the best.
E-quarist™ Courses—Academy Subscriber Special!
The San Diego Zoo Global Academy is excited to share an additional Academy subscriber benefit regarding our collaboration with Dr. Jones: as an Academy subscriber, you are entitled to a discount on the e-quarist™ courses.
For more information about the SDZGA discount, or to view our Trial Version, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.