Zoos have been around for a long while and recent archaeological discoveries point out the fact that man installed the first zoo around 3500 BC. Zoos today go by many names, zoological gardens, menageries and others but whatever you may want to call it, it is a place where wild animals are captured and held against their will. While the essential purpose of a zoo may be to educate the public the fact remains that we cannot wish away the negative connotations that come with a zoo. In fact, certain species often find it hard to procreate in such conditions that they require the assistance of a breeding program to make the miracle happen, which invariably is the case with Pandas. The time has come for us to assess the utility of a zoo and to see if it serves its purpose, to take a closer look at some of the positive and negative impacts of a zoo and take an informed decision on the issue.
The positive impact of a zoo:
- Education: Zoos provide an invaluable resource where education is concerned; they enable young students to study them, to study their mannerisms, behaviours’ and certain zoos even allow you to interact with the animals directly. This exposure to animals from all corners of the world is an invaluable teaching tool; the zoo staff will often travel to various schools and make presentations, to point out the fact that several species from all over the world have made their home at the zoo and that they are available to be studied by the students. It is essential that young children are encouraged to visit these zoos so that they can learn from the countless species held there.
- Protective enclosure: Zoos often provide endangered species with the protection they need from poachers and other predators in the wild. As such, they are given board, lodging and taken care of and would not have to worry about poachers any longer. In fact, some of the species that are extinct in the wild can be found at a nearby zoo, in good health.
- Better treatment of rare animals: Every now and then, a rare species gets captured in the wild and is transferred to the zoo. Often, in such cases, the animal is often transplanted back to its native habitat after a while. Take the Przewalski for example; thirteen of these horses were captured alive in 1945. They are a rare species in the sense they have two extra chromosomes. They became part of the breeding program and were later on released back to the wild; today nearly 1500 horses can trace their lineage to this thirteen.
The negative impact of zoos
- Ethics: Morally speaking, humans do not have the right to capture and hold other species indefinitely and therein lies the issue of what troubles most zoos. You must have felt that the act of taking an animal away from its natural habitat, transporting it for thousands of miles to a foreign zoo must sound wrong to you. Worse, most of these animals have restrictions placed on them and cannot move beyond the confines of their cage. If that was not enough, they are not even allowed to procreate in peace but are forced to do so as part of an active breeding program. These are some of the reasons why many find that zoos are unethical dens, set to profit one select group at the expense of thousands of animals.
- Dependencies: The issue with some of the current breeding programs is that it invariably creates dependencies; for example, if a predator becomes part of a breeding program and then gives birth to a young cub, that cub will start depending on the zoo for its nourishment. It cannot exist without the zoo and breaking this dependency can be difficult.
- Psychological effect: Often animals migrate over large areas so to be restricted to a small 5 by 5 cell must indeed be torture. And the fact that they cannot migrate as they used to before is bound to have a psychological effect on most animals, especially elephants. This can cause some elephants to become aggressive as a result of which they are often put down.
These are some of the positive and negative impacts of zoos; so the next time you visit a zoo, you may want to take a closer look at some of the animals and consider their plight.