Zoos: Advantages and Disadvantages
I remember growing up and asking my parents to please take me to the Zoo.
You see, I grew up surrounded by animals, but there were other amazing species that were not within my reach. I had seen them on TV. I knew they existed and I wanted to confirm they were real.
My parents took me to the Zoo for the very first time when I was around 8 years old, and what a glorious experience!
I was delighted when I met Tony the Elephant and the Tiger with wide stripes.
The following year I went to an Aquarium and learnt with my school how to differentiate male and female sharks.
Then, I went to SeaWorld in Orlando, and once again, I was captivated.
Let’s face it. It is an amazing experience for any 10-year-old girl.
So, here I plan to list a few advantages and disadvantages of Zoos.
Let’s start with the positives. Firstly, Zoos play a significant role in education and they are crucial in protecting endangered species.
Many of them also offer a great quality of life for the animals in captivity, as high as in the wild. Yes, I used the word captivity, which would be one of the disadvantages, but even though their movement is restricted, they will not suffer from the threat or stress of predators.
In Zoos, animals get good care, they would be treated for their injuries or illnesses. Point for the Zoos!
Also, there are great breeding and conservation programmes going on. Many species around the globe are threatened and risk extinction, so Zoos and wildlife parks serve as protection to our biodiversity. Dublin Zoo, for example, has around 40 species at the moment involved in international breeding programmes.
A 2017 survey indicated that more than 90% of the lemur wild population had been lost since 2000. Another one reported that giraffe populations have gone down by a third in the last thirty years. Science Advances reported that of 504 species of primates found globally, 60 per cent are currently threatened with extinction. On the same note, a survey of studies determined that climate change has had a particularly dire effect on mammals and birds on the endangered species list. That includes about half of the mammals and almost a quarter of the birds on the “red list” kept by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
For all these reasons, Zoos provide a critical reservoir for endangered species.
As Dr Dave Hone said, Television documentaries have become increasingly more detailed and awesome, and many natural specimens are exhibited in natural history museums, but children and adults would value seeing a living creature in the flesh, listening to it, smelling it, seeing what it does and have the time to do it; absorb details. Zoos are key for education.
However, there are some not so nice things happening in Zoos as well. They usually cause animals to suffer from mental health problems due to confinement, and some of them are seen as cruel.
Animals in zoos and other forms of captivity suffer from stress and depression and display unusual behaviours. According to World Atlas, Zoochosis “is a word used to explain the stereotypical behaviour of animals in captivity” Zoochotic animals mostly display certain repetitive behaviours.
Zoos are an attempt to preserve animals, but doing so can be detrimental to their mental health. Some pace back and forth when placed in confinement. Other animals repetitively brush their skin leading to loss of hair. And, in extreme cases, some animals resort to self-harm.
No matter how much zoos try to mimic wildlife habitats, it is impossible to recreate the immeasurable vastness of open land within which wild animals would have freedom.
Born Free, for example, encourages animals to stay free. They are convinced that Zoo visitors learn little more than how an animal behaves in captivity and leave with a distorted and inaccurate perception of the species concerned.
For the foundation, the priority for zoos is providing entertainment rather than education.
It is noble of the zoos to try to conserve the animals, but the task is not easy.
There will always be arguments against keeping the animals in captivity, and unfortunately, there will always be a percentage of bad zoos that will do anything for more visitors and to keep their doors open for profit. But if we want to maintain a real measure of biodiversity on the planet, we have to understand the importance of zoos and aquariums, which is more necessary than many believe.