Are zoos good or bad? We answer the question as we dive into the pros and cons of zoos, how zoos can aid conservation, and how modern adaptions of zoos are helping improve the quality of life for captured species
Remember the last time you visited the Zoo? Was it a memorable pastime that put a smile on your face? Why wouldn’t it be! After all, you get the chance to see wild animals right in front of your eyes. An experience which surpasses us in day-to-day life.
But wait- As you grew older did you find yourself concerned about the animals captured inside? Did you wonder if they are equally amused by you being merry outside? This raises an important question: Why do we capture those animals in the cage? Is it just the performance element?
We are going to find an answer to these questions in this article. Firstly by looking into the pros and cons of zoos. This way, we’ll have a better understanding of whether zoos are good or bad.
So, let’s dive in.
Zoos are crucial to helping us advance our scientific knowledge about animals.
If we want to save wildlife species from extinction and restore their natural ecosystems, we need to study how these species live and react within the wild. This is where Zoos play a positive part- they offer a contained and safe space to study animals with less risk and variables which could interfere with their behaviours.
More importantly, understanding the breeding rate and cycles of wild species allows us to manage their populations. Gaining proper knowledge of anaesthetics allows us to medicate sick animals and lengthen their lifetime. Experience handling and capturing wild species that are endangered or require special attention also reduces human-animal conflicts. All of this knowledge concerning animals is what makes a real difference when it comes to wildlife conservation efforts.
Zoos are a haven for captive breeding programs which can help prevent animal extinction and increase population sizes. In fact, they do more than just that. Zoos act like a long-term temple of sanctuary for animals. One where human intervention can protect animals from external human threats and other outside risks.
A successful example to quote is from the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1982, there were just 23 California Condors left in the wild. Today there are 100s residing at the Los Angeles Zoo, of which 75 have been released into the jungle. Thanks to the continuous efforts from researchers since 1987, each and every Condor was captured and moved into a captive-breeding program which made the end result possible.
Zoos regularly create awareness surrounding wildlife conservation. Zoologists often work with conservation workers to equip them with knowledge of wildlife protection. If necessary, they will also send trained professionals to other parts of the world to spread knowledge and improve the conditions of other Zoos.
Zoos can also spread awareness of species without igniting conflict that you would most likely experience in the wild. Passing this knowledge onto a wider audience is what sparks your conscience to question the safety and welfare of captive animals. Ultimately, zoos are capable of making you realise the importance of wildlife species and the conservation efforts aiming to protect them and their ecosystem.
Not all Zoos are created equal. Some are great, some are good, and some are really bad. Meaning, many are not maintained well or employ less well-trained staff. A study of animals at the San Diego Zoo in the 1980s revealed a similar condition where it was found that many animals there had died due to frequent tranquilizing, malnutrition and repeated injuries while being transported.
When animals are kept in captivity in Zoos this can have adverse effects on them in the long run. According to a study conducted by Plymouth University, England, flat concrete enclosures and tight confinement causes depression, phobia and aggression in wild animals placed within this environment. It is fair to say we all know the limitations being cages has on animals. More importantly, a zoo will never be able to replicate the full extent of their natural habitats.
Having mentioned the issues around the Zoos, there are also many solutions that have been devised to counter them. One such example of the solution is the modern day Zoo from Denmark. The 300 acre Zootopia was designed by BIG, an architecture firm, to provide the best possible environment for the animals within.
Interestingly, it’s a Zoo with NO bars or fences or glass to keep the helpless animals inside. The layout allows the animals to roam freely around the grounds that encircle a doughnut-hole shaped observation centre.
Within this observation centre, people are able to pop out their heads and glimpse the animals roaming below. So here, it’s not the animals, but it’s humans who are caged inside. The animals meanwhile are given a vast amount of space to spread their paws.
We have been taught that zoos are a misery. A place where we sit and watch animals forced to live in small spaces and live a miserable life… BUT there are more to Zoos.
The real reality is that actually, we NEED zoos.
Because we have done so much damage to the environment they are our only way to keep species from danger and protect animals from extinction. They are essential for the long term survival of numerous species.
And not only do the Zoos protect those species, but they also inform and educate their audiences on the importance of wildlife species and their habitats. They instigate interest among the masses to be more nature-friendly and adopt sustainable means in their life.
Yes, there are flaws with the zoos that need to be addressed and improved, and fortunately efforts have also been made to make those bad zoos into the good ones. But without good Zoos, protecting endangered species from extinction would be a near impossible affair.
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