Zoos: Yay or Nay?

by - April 10, 2016

One of the most common questions people ask me is what my opinion on zoos is. I think people automatically assume I will be anti-zoos, and that I think they are cruel and unnecessary. However, this is not the case.

I am fortunate enough to have travelled a fair bit and have seen animals in the wild. I have been very lucky when it comes to wildlife sightings, in Africa and elsewhere.
However I am completely aware that not everyone gets these chances. This is why I think zoos are a good thing. They give people the chance to see animals they may never have an opportunity to see otherwise.

An elephant in the Masai Mara, Kenya
I believe people are much more likely to want to protect an animal they have seen before. Seeing an animal in real life will give you more of a connection with them than seeing them on a screen, or in a picture.

Zoos also do a lot in terms of conservation. Many have a strong conservation focus and heavily promote it. They also take part in fundraising and spreading awareness on endangered species, deforestation and climate change.

Zoos can also be a great way to educate people on wildlife. They tend to educate people on the situation of the animal they are viewing, in the wild. For example, a tiger enclosure would be coupled with a display about tigers, including statistics of numbers left in the wild and the dangers they face, as well as facts about the animals' habitat, food and life.People appreciate what they understand. Educating people on animals will add to them wanting to help with their protection. Education is such an important part of conservation, and zoos play a big part in that.

Obviously, there is the issue of making sure the animals are kept in the right conditions. I am not in favour of Sea World's captive Orcas, or keeping polar bears, for example, in blazing heat because they're in a part of the world that cannot replicate their natural habitat. Enclosure size is a big issue when it comes to the welfare of the animals, and many large animals are not given the space they need, or anything close to what they would experience in the wild.

However zoos that care for their animals properly, with the correct habitats, foods and vetenary care, are also working for the benefit of wild animals, at the same time.
Of course it's far more rewarding and breathtaking to see animals in their natural habitat, with no fences or man-made structures in sight. But this does not mean seeing an animal in a zoo is valueless.

Overall, my feeling is, that if the conditions are good and the animals are well looked after, then zoos do more good than harm.

Giraffe in Masai Mara; nothing but nature in sight 

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