The popular, successful movie Madagascar, which presents the adventurous journey of the zoo animals who are tired of being in a rut and accidentally arrive at a tropical island, brings people not only entertainment, and joy because of its funny plot but also the consciousness of the relationship between zoos and animals. In fact, “the first evidence of wild animals being put on public exhibition dates to 2,500 B.C.E. in Ancient Egypt” (Taylor, 2014), and animals were regarded as the symbol of power and wealth at that time, being trapped in small cages on display or even put on the battlefield for the battle to entertain the kings or conquerors. For example, the Romans kept animals as living creatures for entertainment games: “the emperor Trajan staged 123 consecutive days of games to celebrate his conquest of Dacia and eleven thousand animals were slaughtered.” (Dale Jamieson, 2002). It sounds brutal and impossible to people nowadays for we are aware of the equality and welfare of animals, and just as what Madagascar reminds us, many people start to be concerned about the issue of zoo animal’s welfare and wonder whether it is right or not to keep wild animals in zoos. Do we need zoos or do zoos offer better protection than the natural environment does? The answer is “yes” and it can be proved through different aspects/points of view, such as the protection of endangered animals, the education about animals’ welfare to people, and so on.
First of all, zoos will offer better protection of endangered animals than the natural environment for they can settle the animals from the outside dangers, preventing them from being starved to death, and help develop their restoration of them. While some people argue that keeping wild animals in captivity “is taking animals out of their native habitats, transporting them great distances, and keeping them in an alien environment in which their liberty is severely restricted” (Dale Jamieson, 2002), the fact that numerous kinds of endangered animals, such as “the Eastern Bongo, a large antelope that lives in a dense and remote region of Kenya” (Ten endangered species, 2017) and the Amur Leopard(a leopard subspecies native to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and northern China) are saved from extinction by zoos proves that zoos have positive effects on the protection of the endangered animals and that there are advantages of keeping animals in it. Aside from avoiding them from living under the threats of hunters and predators by providing them with a safe, well-designed environment, the sufficient food and water supplied by the zoos also eliminate the worry of hunger and dehydration for them, which is likely to happen and affect the survival of animals in the wild. Moreover, with the appropriate living conditions mentioned above, keeping animals in zoos also accelerates the restoration of endangered species and boosts their population, saving them from extinction. The better quality of life that zoos offer enables animals to live and gives them the power and strength to breeding generations. It is undeniable that keeping animals in captivity may restrict their freedom and move them from their original habitats, however; the continuity of life that they bring to the world is a lot more beneficial and worth concern.
Second, instead of putting animals on display merely for recreation and entertainment as the ancients did, modern zoos also serve the function of education, providing the public with correct concepts of animals’ living rights and the importance of preserving them. Just as “Hone argued in his article, zoos are a type of consciousness expander.” (Phippen, 2016). They enable people all over the world, from young to old to expose to something they had never witnessed and acknowledged, giving people the opportunity to discover biodiversity through living creatures instead of the spiritless, lifeless specimens that are on display in museums. The exciting and touching feeling of seeing the beauty of numerous kinds of animals in person can somehow bring a greater understanding and perspective to people, shortening the distance between them and the world and having them appreciate what’s in front of them. Besides, the introduction given by the zoos which illustrate the habits, interests, and current situation of the animals can not only have people get closer to the specific species of animals but also reveal the living crisis of the animals, reminding the visitors of the urgency to cherish and to make every effort to preserve them. The educational function that zoos serve can be seen as the long-term protection of animals for people who may be aware of the importance of the world’s biodiversity and try to appreciate it through what the zoos give to them, which is precious but difficult to be taught through lectures.
Finally, zoos offer people a quick, efficient way to research. According to Dave Hone (2014), “If we are to save many wild species and restore and repair ecosystems we need to know about how key species live, act and react.” Zoos provide researchers with the best environment and samples for studying owing to the safer environment and the more consistent quality of tested animals that they have than the wild environment does. Scholars do not have to be afraid of being attacked beyond consciousness and can focus on their experiments for zoos offer protection both to animals and humans. Also, researchers do not need to inject anesthesia into the animals’ bodies or even hurt them to capture them for experimenting in zoos, which is more moral and can prevent unnecessary human-animal conflicts, no one would be sacrificed and become the victim. Moreover, the study which was done successfully can be contributed to the understanding of the specific kinds of animals, which may be useful for disease prevention, conservation, and restoration, and ultimately maintain the Earth’s biodiversity. The conveniences and safety that zoos offer are not only beneficial to the research but also to our ultimate goal of preventing endangered animals from disappearing from the world and maintaining the diversity of the living creatures living in the beautiful world.
Contrary to what most of us had imagined, zoos are not where brutally limit animals from freedom or treat them with indifference, but a starting point that helps them eliminate the risk of extinction and develop the restoration of their generations. The benefits that are mentioned previously, including avoiding endangered animals from facing extinction, educating people about the importance of cherishing the animals, and providing suitable resources for research are a virtuous cycle dedicated to the ultimate goal of providing better protection to the animals and continuing the biodiversity of the world. Zoos can do a lot more than merely offer entertainment or rest, and they play a crucial role in the conservation of rare, precious species in the world. Nonetheless, it is everyone’s responsibility to pay feedback to the environment and devote ourselves to the protection of the lives which live on it, and we can’t only depend on the zoos to do that obligation for us even though it is beneficial to the conservation of animals. To fulfill the ultimate hope of pursuing animals’ welfare and diversity, it is certain that zoos have made a lot of progress and will continue to have positive impacts on it, however; we humans should also take responsibility to protect our environment and the creatures that live on it!
- Dale Jamieson, (2002). Against zoos. Morality's Progress (pp. 166-67). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Dave Hone, (2014). Why zoos are good? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/lost-worlds/2014/aug/19/why-zoos-are-good
- Taylor MA, (2014). Zootopia-Animal Welfare, Species Preservation and the Ethics of Captivity. Poultry, Fisheries＆Wildlife Sciences, 2(2).
- Ten endangered species were saved from extinction by zoos (2017). Retrieved from https://medium.com/taronga-conservation-society-australia/10-endangered-species-saved-from-extinction-by-zoos-682c454d0125
- J. Weston Phippen, (2016). Do we need zoos? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/06/harambe-zoo/485084/