Zoos are a great place to go for a nice fun day in the sun. You get to see all kinds of animals that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see in your day to day lives. So all in all, going to the zoo is a pretty cool experience. For the humans. Animals in captivity may appear on the outside to have a much better standard of living than those in the wild (lack of predators, abundance of food, etc.). And while those are probably all great for the animals, there are often times more issues that develop behind the scenes that most zoo patrons don’t get to see. And while many people say that many zoo animals “don’t know anything else besides zoo life”, the effects that living in captivity on animals are much bigger than the public thinks.
There are many arguments that are often used in protection of zoos. “The animals don’t know any other sort of life” or “If these animals were released into the wild, they would be killed because they don’t know how to live in the wild. So they are better to just be kept in captivity.” There are little bits of truth in these arguments, but their overall message misses the mark. And while it is true that if animals were released into the wild after years of living in the zoo, they wouldn’t be able to sustain themselves and many animals would die; if we get rid of zoos now, then future generations of animals will be able to grow up in the wild and gain the necessary skills to survive. However, when it comes to endangered species, there is a strong argument that keeping them in captivity is a good thing. By keeping them in zoos we do help protect them from endangerment, but once their population has continued to grow and rekindle, they should help be fostered back into the wild so that they are able to live the lives that they are supposed to.
Another downside to zoos that the public often doesn’t see is how being in captivity hurts the overall mental health of the animals. “Disorders like phobias, depression and OCD, documented at zoos, don’t appear to have analogues among animals living in the wild.” says Dr. Vint Virga, who is a skilled and reputable veterinarian who specializes in mental health of animals. It is easy to see how animals might be physically hurt in zoos, with small enclosures that prevent them from moving around as much as they would in the wild, but it is much harder to see the mental strain that being in captivity puts on animals. Studies have shown that animals who are kept in captivity struggle to maintain their mental health because they are biologically programmed to be wild animals. While it seems that having abundant amounts of food and lack of predators helps the mental states of the animals, it indeed does the opposite. Animals have developed certain behaviors that would be useful in the wild. And oftentimes when they are introduced or born into a completely “harmless” setting, it can do serious damage to the mental stability of animals. And while all animals in zoos don’t struggle with mental health issues, it is striking and alarming that zoos are catalyzing the development of these illnesses.
here is a link to my article i annotated with hypothesis
Zoos aren’t cool by Carter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.