Zoos SA's Dr Chris West said that with 33,000 members who shared an interest in ecological matters, the organisation had a duty to speak out about growth and sustainability.
"We can't turn the clock back but we can't continue as we are. We need to look at the total cost, including the environmental, of any development that we take part in," he said. "Sensible objective arguments are getting lost in the howling of political debate, sadly.
"My personal view is that we are still ploughing on with not very well regulated or controlled economic development and we need to pull that back and look at the consequences."
He has written to a federal government inquiry into population growth urging a policy change to link growth with the potential damage that can be done to the environment.
Dr West's submission to the inquiry suggests the Government should have better control over immigration levels as well as population growth.
"What we are saying is that (immigration) should be taken into consideration. I don't think we are saying Zoos SA has a particular insight into the social political and legal issues around immigration," he said.
"That said, I think it is fairly clear that there are a lot of Australians who could be better - skilled and employed - so let's be more considered in how we do this (immigration)," he said.
"But that is not a political comment and certainly does not stray into the refugee issue."
Dr West said Zoos SA had spoken out because the population debate was subjected to extreme growth and anti-growth arguments and should be "evidence" based.
"Growth needs to be balanced with the environment and that is an important caveat that needs to be placed in people's minds," he said.
"We cannot continue to use up natural resources and have an impact on the environment without consequences, and they will directly affect not only biodiversity but ultimately our own quality of life.
"There is a debate about big Australia versus small Australia and we don't want to become politicised but we want to say that issues like this need to be very carefully approached."'