Zoos: The Good and The Bad

The zoo is a special place for most kids. You go with your family or your school, you get to see all of these really cool animals and you often leave the park with a stuffed animal and some cotton candy.

The truth is, zoos are a cool concept with tons of great benefits for humans, but they’re unfortunately bad for the animals.

Let’s look at how they benefit us:

Educationally

Zoo’s are amazing learning experiences. Sure, you could see all of these animals on the Discovery Channel in their natural habitats, but zoos offer a real-life perspective and a level of interaction that you just don’t see with TV.

Children and adults are exposed to new words while at a zoo and are statistically more likely to care about animal endangerment after visiting. Seeing the animals in zoos are also able to help children foster the idea that every living thing has its own thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which is an important step to having empathy and compassion.

Many zoos are also doing their part to help bring awareness to endangered animals and help people realize the things they could be doing at home to help save species that are endangered.

Economically

The more popular Zoos are huge tourist attractions, which helps bring revenue into a local economy. To top it off, they also provide over 208,000 jobs around the county and generate $22.5 billion in economic activity annually. To small cities like my own, this is very important to our economy.

Scientifically

Zoos offer a great way for humans to study different types of animals and produce research that helps us understand the animals better and how to better take care of them.

However, the benefits of zoos really only seem to be for humans.

Animals get sick

There is evidence that zoos are just not a great place for animals. The small habitats and lack of privacy often leave animals with a case of “zoochosis”, a term used to describe the repetitive, invariant behavior of animals in captivity. These actions have no obvious goal or function and are often observed as animals pacing back and forth repeatedly, biting bars, excessively bobbing their heads, weaving, and swaying, or, in extreme cases, as overgrooming or self-mutilation.

They don’t do enough to help

Even the efforts zoos make to help rehabilitate wild and endangered animals or raise money for them don’t actually seem to be helping. Most animals who are born in captivity don’t survive in the wild once they are released, especially preditors, and the money that zoos are using in an effort to help animals are mostly being spent on research and fundraising.  Plus, nearly one-third of animals on the US endangered list don’t actually have recovery plans.

They’re dangerous

There are several examples where animals and humans were harmed by each other.

In 2004, a gorilla escaped its enclosure in Dallas, Texas, harmed four people and was shot and killed before doing any more damage. In St. Louis, a polar bear named Churchill died during surgery to remove and an unnatural obstruction in his stomach, which zookeepers believed got there by someone throwing it in the enclosure. Then there was the man who was trampled by an elephant in a zoo. More recently, there was the story of Harambe, the gorilla who was shot after a child fell into his enclosure.  All of these deaths could have been avoided simply if we had left the animals alone.

In conclusion, humans risk the mental and physical health of animals because of some minor educational benefits that could be gained elsewhere. If you want to get close to nature, go to it. Don’t make it come to you.