Last Updated on March 9, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
Whether you call it a zoo, animal park or menagerie, the purpose of this institution remains the same. It’s a facility where animals are held captive and are enclosed behind bars for people to observe and enjoy.
Over the years, zoos have become an extremely famous public place, where people visit, mainly, for educational and recreational purposes. Roughly over 181 million people are said to visit a zoo in the U.S, every year and over 25 million in the U.K. Zoos play an important part in saving endangered animals and providing information for scientific researchers.
But with that being said, animal protection organizations and animal right advocates question and raise opinions against the concept of captivating animals, whether it be for educational purposes or breeding purposes. They simply believe that zoos seize freedom from the animals and its concept is wrong from an ethical point of view.
The Evolution of Zoo
The first known zoos were created by wealthy owners in order to display their possession. Back then, they were called menagerie and it symbolized power. Then, wall carvings, which dates back to around 2500 BCE, were found in Egypt which provided evidence that rulers back then too created menagerie.
The illustration showed that they traveled far to bring exotic animals such as giraffes, elephants, and dolphins and ensured that there were animal handlers to take care of the animals.
Zoos were intended as an institution to study and collect information about animals. However, the London Zoo was the first to allow the public to visit when they figured out that people showed interest and found those animals intriguing. By the 1840s, zoos started to open for the public.
Today, zoos have evolved, they provide better care and some zoos try to recreate the preferable environment for the animals. The modern zoos are not just limited to you observing animals stuck in cages. Now, you can either visit Safari Parks, Urban and Suburban zoos, Game reserves or even Petting zoos.
Pros and Cons of Zoo
The idea of keeping animals captive and restricting their freedom for any reason doesn’t sound right. Thus, the concept of zoos is extremely divisive. Are zoos really a haven for animals? Are endangered animals really preserved? Or is it just a mere strategy of the business owners? Let’s dig further into its advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of Zoo
1. Zoos Provide Educational Resource to the Community
Zoos provide an opportunity for us to interact with animals of all sorts, which wouldn’t be possible if not for the facility. It creates a learning environment not only for the kids but for the entire community. You get to learn scientific facts about the animals and it brings you closer to nature. There are modern zoos that provide various tours and seek to teach the younger generation about the importance of conservation of biodiversity.
2. Zoos Protect Endangered Animals
Out in the wild, endangered animals are at risk of survival and need the utmost protection from any sort of danger. But, zoos are a haven for these animals. The endangered animals are brought from the wild and are left in the hands of leading researchers and experts who observe their various habits and breeding patterns.
Through these researches, an expert can help them breed and survive. Moreover, the animals won’t have to face difficulties that they’d face in the wild such as pollution, the competition of food and various disease.
3. Zoos Boost the Economy of the Local Community
Zoos are a haven for numerous majestic animals but at the same time, they provide job opportunities for people from various fields. Zoos hire caretakers that are professionally trained to care for animals.
Veterinarians are also required to stay 24 hours with the animals in case of emergencies. Also, zoos need tour guides, janitors, food services, souvenirs vendor and many other man powers. Zoos in a large city such as Seattle can have a budget of more than 40 million dollars.
4. Zoos Work with Veterinarians and Professionals
Zoos have residency programs, veterinarian internships, and volunteer programs. You’re allowed to volunteer from a young age to see if you’d be interested to take the career. Also, there are specialists, pathologies and professionals trainers.
With the involvement of highly trained professionals, animals have ensured the best possible care. Most zoos, try to replicate the natural habitat of the animals and the animals are provided with nutrition and a good diet.
Cons of Zoo
1. Zoos Keep Animals Captive
Wild animals have naturally evolved to be comfortable with certain environments, habitats, and climates. Even though zoos put immense effort into replicating their natural habitat, it still won’t be the same.
The animals are confined to a relatively smaller space and it doesn’t make a good impact on their well being. For instance, an Ocra survives up to 100 years in the wild, but in captivity, they survive, only, up to at the age of 30 years.
2. Zoos Struggle Financially
Even with millions of people visiting zoos every year, most zoos are failing financially. Even the best zoos in the U.S, such as the Woodland Park Zoo, had more expenses than their income revenues in the year 2015.
Under such a tight budget, the number of specialists that care for animals is reduced. This means the animals don’t get the best facilities and the quality of their life degrades. They may have a shortage of food and a lack of proper treatment.
3. The Animals in the Zoos Live a Shorter Life
When talking about the drawbacks of the zoo, the Ocra is mostly used for reference. Females orcas living in captivity live only up to 30 years and male orcas have half the lifespan of females, whereas, in the wild, they’d have a lifespan of over 100 years.
Even when zoos try mimicking their natural habitat, they are other aspects that affect the well being of the animals.
4. Some Zoos Only Work for Profit
Some zoo owners are only concerned about their financial condition. The animals are used as recreational objects and are not treated properly. There even has been cases where surplus animals killed.
Saving endangered animals is just a mere excuse for generating revenues. Although, they might spend quite some money on making zoos attractive, behind the scenes proper food, treatment, and good health facilities may not be provided.
5. Natural Animal Behavior Changes
Some animals are not built to be confined to small places, especially animals such as elephants, giraffes. There are other certain behaviors of some animals such as hibernation and migrating behaviors. People argue that the space is too confined and these animals cannot migrate, resulting in aggressive behavior.
The pros and cons of a zoo will always leave people debating. Saving endangered animals from extinction is, without a doubt, extremely important. There are zoos putting effort into saving these animals.
But at the same time, there are zoos that act like businesses, focusing on their profit rather than animal welfare. Whether it be saving animals or not, the ethics of animal captivity should be taken into consideration.