Saint Louis Zoo Tackles One Health Initiative and Demonstrates the Benefits of Zoos to Human Health

For the greater part of our evolutionary history, we as humans have been tied to the natural world. Only in recent centuries has urbanization advanced to such a degree that we find ourselves disconnected to nature.

In recent time, the re-emergence of infectious diseases has resulted from the ecological encroachment on wildlife habitat. Urbanization and western medicine have influenced the spread of infectious pathogens, but of equal concern are stress related noninfectious diseases. These plague people living in the developed world as well as the developing world and can greatly compromise our well-being and longevity.

Many accredited zoos and aquariums have embraced the One Health initiative, which aims to improve human, animal and ecosystem health for a global community. In doing so, they not only find themselves poised to safely combat the transmission of disease agents that potentially jump host species or share host species through complex life cycles, but they serve as living laboratories for clinical medicine targeting chronic disease concerns for humans and animals alike.

Through a collaborative study, the Saint Louis Zoo and the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently showed the human health benefits to visitors at an interactive zoo exhibit through an innovative zoo-based research project. Their work supports the general findings of earlier studies, which confirmed that safely managed interfacing with captive wildlife reduces patron stress. Results indicated that such experiences enhance psychological health, including decreased tension and increased energy. The results also indicated that the touch tank experience may reduce blood pressure, as was shown at a zoo in Japan. Reduction in blood pressure is a well-known physiological parameter of stress.

According to their report, which was recently published in the journal Zoo Biology, “The research supports the potential for experiences at zoos and aquariums to be part of —> Read More