Top 10 Facts About Zoos
Zoo (plural zoos or zo) is a place where animals are kept for public display and entertainment. A zoological garden (or “zoological park”, or “animal park”) is an establishment where animals are exhibited within enclosures that simulate their natural environments.
Most of the animals in zoos are not born in the zoo itself. They are collected from their wild habitat and surroundings, bred, traded, and with some animals donated to the zoo by private owners. The animals that live in a zoo are not free to come and go of their own will. The animal’s home – a cage or an enclosure – may be large, but it is still a cage or an enclosure with no privacy for the animal. Cages and enclosures, even those that try to resemble natural habitats as closely as possible, can never replace the freedom which animals have in their natural environment.
The following are ten facts about zoos:
1. Animals born in zoos do not belong there.
Each year in the UK alone, around 150 million animals are born into zoos and wildlife parks. You may think that zoos and wildlife parks protect the species they keep. Not true. Animals born in captivity will never be able to survive in their natural habitat in the wild, so these 150 million will never be released.
2. Zoos rarely use contraception to stop species from breeding in captivity.
Animals reproduce much faster than they normally would because of their unnatural living conditions which make them stressed and susceptible to diseases. Many of the babies born in zoos and wildlife parks will die young because those facilities are not equipped with adequate space or enough food for them to grow healthily.
3. Animals in zoos are frequently killed.
Each year the zoo kills millions of animals – directly and indirectly – by beating, shooting, dragging or drowning them. This is because zoos are not equipped with the correct infrastructure to provide appropriate water resources for both human and animal use. Water sources must be cleaned regularly and rotavators used to prevent the disease from spreading in the water. In addition, millions of animals must be sent back into the wild each year due to a lack of space or funds to keep them alive.
4. The public’s belief about zoos influences how they behave toward other people and wild animals.
Many people believe that zoos are not cruel, but as long as they are kept in the public eye, that is what people will believe. Until we have a zoo where animals live the way they naturally would and educate people about the animals they keep, zoos will continue to contribute to cruelty toward animals in our society and toward each other.
5. Animals in zoos cannot express their natural behavior – such as mating or running from predators for their own safety and survival.
All of the animals in zoos must be kept safely within a confined environment where they cannot risk being injured by wild animals or humans. In some zoos, the animals’ freedom of movement is severely limited – they cannot even turn around without literally “hitting a wall” or other animals. Animals who are kept in such environments find it difficult to express their natural behavior (and usually do not even behave naturally) because they are constantly aware that their movements are restricted. In addition, many species have been known to go insane from being confined in small spaces with limited stimuli and stimulation, as well as the stress of living with too many other animals in a confined area.
6. Animals raised in captivity often cannot survive when released into the wild.
A staggering 85% of animals raised in captivity die before they are released into the wild. The most common cause of death is a failure to learn critical survival skills that can only be learned in the wild. Animals also die because of unfamiliar diseases which their immune system could have otherwise built up from living freely in the wild, and due to injuries sustained from having been born in captivity (i.e. they have never learned to live without human help). Those who manage to survive often cannot cope with the stresses of living in the wild, causing them to flee or hide instead of engaging in natural predatory behavior or mating behavior that would ensure the survival of their species.
7. Animals in zoos are routinely used as props.
Many zoos will “hide” animals to make them look more interesting or significant, but by doing this they rob the animals of their ability to act naturally and honestly in order to communicate with other members of its species.
Animals used for public display may be very well cared for at first, but if they are not kept in a natural environment where they are allowed to live the way that animals naturally do, they become stressed and unhappy. Any animal kept in a small or restricted space is likely to become depressive and irritable. This is not the fault of the animal itself, but rather of the circumstances under which it is kept. Those who are used in such a fashion are often not being used as they were intended. Their “expression” could instead have been a sincere expression of natural behavior and personality.
Those who have been trained to exhibit or perform “safely” can engage in normal behavior because they know that they will not be harmed, which allows them to express themselves honestly and naturally. They have a bond with their trainer and/or owner that allows them to trust them for physical safety. This does not mean that they are enjoying the training or being happy about it, it simply means that they trust the trainer and know that it is safe.
8. Animals in zoos do not get enough of some of the things humans take for granted.
The ability to interact with animals in a natural, healthy, and meaningful way is difficult to accomplish in captivity. Just like humans, animals need regular social interaction with other members of their species in order to communicate effectively. At zoos, on average, only around 10% of the animals are able to have these interactions by living alone or in small groups. For the rest, they must look at others of their species on television or in books.
9. Animals are placed in zoos because they have nowhere else to go.
Because animals cannot speak, we cannot ask them what they want or need. Most people believe that animals are safe and well cared for at zoos, and this may be true for a few lucky ones. However, there are so many cases of abuse and neglect that it should make us wonder about the conditions of the majority of zoo animals. Zoos even admit that many of their animals will not survive into old age; most zoo deaths occur during the first year of captivity (due to being stressfully deprived from natural stimuli).
As the human population continues to grow, zoos are constantly creating larger enclosures in order to find more places for new animals. However, there is only so much room in a zoo. When a zoo’s “space” is full, they need to find a home for new animals; these may come from the wild or from another zoo, and when there are not enough new animals to fill the space, they must get rid of some that they already have.
10. The mission of zoos is not conservation.
The argument that zoos promote conservation has been deceptively replaced with one that seems less threatening — the idea that zoos promote education about animals and their conservation. This idea is a great one, but it is essential that we remember that the goal of zoos is not conservation.
Zoos are set up to make money. The ever-growing captive animal population in American zoos has prompted many to question the ethics of keeping animals in captivity, but such questions are ignored by the industry, which continues to expand its captive programs.
If you want to learn about animals and conservation, do not go to a zoo — go on a nature hike or volunteer at an animal sanctuary instead. Zoos are violent places where conscious animals die and unconscious creatures live in chains.
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