People have kept animals captive for thousands of years dating back to ancient Egypt as far back as 2500BC. In the 18th century menageries (a private collection of animals) grew in popularity as it was a sign of wealth and helped them to gain popularity with their peers, but the welfare standards were poor as they did not understand the exotic animals’ requirements for them to survive and be happy. Modern-day zoos have improved drastically with their main roles being conservation, research, education, and recreation. These zoos do a lot of work in and outside of the zoo to ensure their welfare conditions are kept to the highest standards. Recently due to the public being more aware of some of the negative aspects of keeping animals in zoos, some have started a lot of controversy surrounding the moral argument of whether should animals be kept in zoos or not.
There are many reasons for zoos to be open as they are a key part of modern society. They help to educate the public on endangered exotic species that they otherwise would not know existed and how they could help them such as donating money etc. They also allow scientists to learn as much about these species as they can, so they know how to provide care for them in captivity and to find ways to help them in the wild. Zoos have always been popular tourist attractions with regular visitors and for families to have a day out. Going to a zoo and seeing the animals up close provides a much more personal experience for the public and can spark empathy towards the animals and can get the public to care for the future of endangered animals. This inspires the public to make donations and spread awareness of how close to extinction some animals are. Without zoos, some species may go unnoticed by the public which could lead to mass extinctions that could lead to drastic changes in the habitat’s ecosystem. In most zoos, they have breeding programs like EEPs (European Endangered Species Programmes) which are run by species experts of the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) organization outside of the zoo that advises the breeding of species. These involve detailed information about the species and individuals kept by the zoo which prevents interbreeding and advises the transfer of individuals, so they have the best chance of producing healthy offspring. This is used so zoos know what species should be bred and which shouldn’t to prevent overcrowding so zoos can take preventative measures such as using contraception methods or keeping sexually mature animals of the same species in the same enclosure.
There are also arguments against the use of zoos as people should not have to right to capture, confine and breed animals as they wish as animals should have the same rights and access to freedom as humans do. As humans, we feel like we are the superior species to the rest of the planet and therefore feel a sense of responsibility to look after all other species on the planet without having the correct knowledge and facilities to do so. There are many examples of zoos and private collections around the world where the welfare standards are appalling. Evidence of abusing the animals either physically harming them or harming them through other ways such as not providing them with the correct diet leading them to be malnourished or starved, dirty and cramped enclosures, and other factors that can lead to extreme stress and discomfort. By law, there are standards that zoos should be held to, for example, The Animal Welfare Act 2006 in the UK provides zoos with the minimum requirements needed for the animals to survive in captivity, but this is only the bare minimum that zoos should provide. For animals to truly thrive they must be given much more but unfortunately, this doesn’t usually happen. Animals can suffer from a lack of enrichment in captivity which could lead to abnormal and dangerous behaviors such as pacing, bar-biting, and even self-mutilation as a way to stimulate themselves when nothing else would. These behaviors are a result of not allowing the animals to display natural behaviors such as foraging, hunting, etc and them being overstressed from not being able to do so. Another reason against keeping animals in zoos is the breeding aspect within them. Endangered animals are bred in order to save and protect the species, but most if not, all zoos do not release these captive-bred animals back into the wild because they are too reliant on human interference to survive in the wild.
In conclusion, there is no definitive answer to say if zoos are good or bad as everyone has their own point of view on the matter and it has always been a controversial topic. There are many just reasons for and against keeping animals in zoos, but my own opinion is that zoos are a key part of society and should stay that way. Zoos contribute a lot to the study and conservation of animals which will help to secure the future of our ecosystem and the animals within it. They have been around in some form for thousands of years and have improved so much in that time so they can only evolve and get better in the future.