My first trip to the Bronx Zoo was memorialized on a bit of 1950s home movie footage. His act of defiance told me exactly how this animal felt to be locked up in that cage.
Living an inner-city life once again with 2 little boys, I began to visit the Philadelphia Zoo often. As a veterinary student who was engaged in animal welfare issues, I found the zoo visits with my children both enthralling and enraging.
I saw the big cats pacing and circling the perimeter of their cement cages smaller than my living room I gazed at giraffes munching on vegetation while in earshot of city traffic. My preceptor ship there gave me a coveted behind-the-scenes glimpse of life inside one of the most famous zoos in America.
It also gave me basic training and a desire to treat birds, reptiles and little mammals. But experiencing these animals in captivity made me realize where I stood on the zoo controversy.
Philadelphia’s Zoo360 is designed to better suit the animals yet thrill the human participants. Gorillas, big cats, gibbons, markets and monkeys cavort on freeways and suspended trails.
In general, zoos are downsizing in the variety of animals (the Noah’s Ark model) and giving attention and space to fewer, more specialized exhibits. Zoos are turning into pleasure yachts for only a few of the grand creatures of the world.
Zoos will always be a controversial topic, even if they include compassionate conservation in their programs. Zoos may remain controversial, but the ethical caring and instinctual knowledge of the zookeepers and veterinarians was never in question.
Be as minimally invasive as possible, trust the zookeepers’ observations of the animals they know so well and follow your own instincts. Any handling, chemical restraint or even close human proximity is a major stressor for these creatures.
Accredited zoos and aquariums contributed more than $22.5 billion to U.S. economy in 2018 Support 198,000 jobs in the U.S. They profit off the capture and containment of exotic animals that should be left in the wild.
While in captivity, those animals aren't afforded proper space to roam, and instead end up pacing back and forth in futility. We could fund conservation initiatives without having to keep animals in small cages while people bang on the glass to make them move; zoos being at the forefront of conservation is a fox in the hen house kind of situation.
Zoos, circuses, and roadside attractions will hopefully become a thing of the past in favor of animal sanctuaries, true conservation efforts, and protected habitats. I am all about trying to keep alive species that are in danger of dying out due to loss of habitats but only if we do it humanely and providing the best conditions for the animals.
They should be provided with things to play, have space to run and if possible the chance to have either a mate or a pack of some kind. I can find no ethical argument that justifies our assumed entitlement over other beings lives.
It's documented that abuse occurs in zoos, because wild animals are difficult to manage. If we recognize that animals have consciousness and can feel pain, as all reputable scientists now do, we cannot possible ethically justify that it is okay to kidnap, rape, imprison, kill or isolate.
With the former, the facilities have to undergo rigorous accreditation and documentation for their high standards of care and policies. These include requirements for enrichment and mental stimulation that will encourage natural behaviors.
There's no guarantee of the care the animals receive or breeding practices at unaccredited facilities so supporting those should be done with caution. The animals in captivity are seen as ambassadors to get the public to care about and work towards saving species in the wild rather than solely for entertainment.
The remaining wild is quickly getting encroached upon by humans which creates human/wildlife conflict where the animals ultimately lose out. The best thing a concerned person can do is to continue to support AZA-accredited zoos that are making actual positive changes for wild animals and stop going to roadside zoos or ones that offer baby animal photo experiences.
I found it amazing seeing lions, giraffes, and zebras that you see on TV to be inches away from you. These animals are basically prisoners living in their small cages and being made as attractions for profit.
However, I do understand that by keeping the animals in zoos, they are being protected, and it prevents them from going extinct. They also won’t be subjected to psychological abuse from people especially from those jerks who love throwing things at animals.
I don't consider zoos to be ethical as it is imprisonment to the animal that robs their freedom and confine them in a small area. In this pandemic, people were asked to stay at the comfort of their home for a few weeks and not many people could stay home for a couple of days as compared to many animals in the zoo who spend their whole life.
The complex breeding program causes new animals to be born with several health issues. Animals born in zoos could not learn the essential wild survival skills from their parents and lose touch with nature.
We are currently in the sixth great mass extinction, in which humans are the ones causing the extermination of animals, not nature. In today’s modern zoos and aquariums, their research is funded for the sole purpose of propagating a species, with an end goal of reintroducing a formerly endangered or critically endangered species back into the wild.
That has DEFINITELY changed over the decades, but originally people just wanted to look at cool animals up close. It’s extremely fun and entertaining to see beautiful animals most people will never get to see in the wild.
Once I watched markets for a research project, and they made me laugh and smile so much. When I worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I loved watching the okapi.
Okapis are an elusive and endangered species that live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Humans directly caused species extinctions and declines through the destruction of habitat, poaching, overhunting, climate change and pollution.
When people learn about and have real and personal connections with nature, they are more likely to have pro-conservation attitudes and behaviors. This experience is different from zoos were you can hold the animals because the lion has a choice.
With increasing urbanization and people spending more and more time indoors, these experiences with nature decline with every generation. Connections with nature are especially important in urban areas where green spaces can be harder to find.
If I tell a group of people that climate change threatens polar bears, some of them may take action to reduce their impact. This is a Mack lots’ python ambassador animal that we were allowed to gently touch at the North Carolina Zoo.
Hopefully, by seeing animals, people will be motivated to either (1) change their own behavior to alleviate the problem that is impacting animals in the wild or (2) donate money to conservation programs that help protect the species in the wild. In this case, we were only allowed to use two fingers to touch this Mack lot’s python and were instructed to do it gently.
A lot of factors outside our direct control, such as habitat loss and poaching, threaten many species. African forest elephants, the species I studied for my Ph.D., are poached so badly for ivory right now that it could very well lead to their extinction.
Donations to organizations like the Wildlife Conservation Society (which is affiliated with the Bronx Zoo) pay for rangers’ salaries to patrol parks and reduce the poaching. The rare exception is when a species’ population is so small that the animals need to be put into captivity to breed for a reintroduction program.
Professionals choose specific animals to mate with one another based on their history and genetics. IMPORTANT : Just because a zoo breeds endangered species does not mean they are contributing to conservation.
However, when I worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we administered contraceptives to the cotton-tops because there was a healthy captive population size. Zoos need a lot of money and space to support a large collection of animals.
In 2014, people were outraged at the Copenhagen Zoo for euthanizing a healthy giraffe that was not genetically diverse enough to help reduce inbreeding in the captive population. Captive bred exotic animals are unlikely to survive in the wild without many considerations in their husbandry.
Zoos work with scientists and vets to develop programs to increase the odds that animals bred for reintroductions to the wild will actually survive. One of the ways that ethical zoos help conserve animals in the wild is through species reintroduction program.
Zoo captive breed animals like this black-footed ferret to make sure the species does not become extinct. Photo from Image by PublicDomainImages from Apixaban Scientists design reintroduction programs so captive-bred will know how to eat, mate, and survive in the wild.
Many endangered species are threatened by poaching and therefore scientists want to keep animals fearful of humans. Often the public does not see the animals involved in captive breeding for species reintroduction programs.
Ethical zoos also provide resources to protect threatened and endangered species such as anti-poaching rangers. Zoos owned by organizations have a board of directors and multiple parties responsible for making decisions about the welfare of animals.
Government and nonprofit zoos are thereby run by groups of people which includes a board of members or tiered directorship. Animals in cages frequently show signs of stress and boredom through stereotypic behavior like pacing and head bobbing.
To receive accreditation, zoos must meet guidelines in regard to animals’ enclosures, social behavior, health, and nutrition. The AZA guidelines are set by animal care experts, scientists, and veterinarians with decades of experience and are constantly evolving.
Due to their large space requirements, high intelligence, and sophisticated social structure some professionals think that elephants should not be in captivity at all. Ethical zoos are those that prioritize animal welfare, education, and conservation efforts above profits.
Keepers frequently provide their animals with enrichment activities like treats or scents to encourage this behavior. Ethical zoos create more realistic enclosures for their animals and allow young to stay with the mother.
Ethical zoos hire professionals including skilled animal keepers, scientists, and veterinarians. They often conduct their own research on the captive animals housed at their zoo to ensure they are reducing or eliminating any stereotypical behavior.
AZA accreditation More realistic enclosures mimicking natural habitat Large enclosures, especially for larger species Enrichment: Food sources or objects to encourage the natural behaviors of animals Less stereotypic behavior (repeated movements, head bobbing in elephants, pacing) Now or extremely regulated exotic animal touching Barriers between the animals and the public Purposeful and regulated breeding of specific species Babies are an infrequent occasion and are announced to the public Baby animals stay with their mothers in exhibits The animals do not perform tricks Placards and other educational information about the animals in the wild Research takes place at the zoo and/or on animals in the wild Government or non-profit ownership with a board of directors Scientists (people with masters or Ph.D.s) and veterinarians are part of the permanent staff Many keepers have bachelor’s degrees The individuals who own these zoos sacrifice animals’ wellbeing and welfare to make money.
Making money is the primary objective and sole purpose of an unethical zoo. In the series, they showed someone with no veterinary experience sewing up a wound on a tiger.
Unethical zoos allow you to get extremely close to the animals posing a danger to you and them. They immediately take the babies from their mothers after birth (as seen in Tiger King).
These types of zoos establish a relationship of human dominance between the handlers and the animals. In contrast, ethical zoos allow the mother and baby to stay together in their enclosure as would happen in nature.
Unethical zoos use photo opportunities with baby animals as a means to lure people. This in itself is a form of animal abuse because the adults are constantly being bred to produce babies all year long (like puppy mills).
When the baby animals grow up, they are no longer useful to the unethical zoo and are sold to other private individuals, roadside zoos, or canned hunts (where people pay to hunt animals in captivity). The animals would need to shipped thousands of miles oversees to be released into their natural habitat.
Less or no consideration for habitat, often just cages and concrete Small enclosures Animals are dressed up like humans More stereotypic behavior (pacing back and forth) Heavy emphasis on touching or holding the animals No barriers between the animals and the public or allowing the public to enter enclosures Babies are always present and advertised to the public with photo opportunities Baby animals are taken from their mothers to be raised by humans; mothers are simply breeders akin to puppy mills Tricks and circus-like performances Little or no educational information about the animals in the wild Private ownership No research takes place There are no permanent scientists or veterinarians on staff Most keepers have no higher education Stephanie Shuttle is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach.
Read her inspirational story, My Unexpected Journey Into Science to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology.