Oxford Dictionary definition: zoological garden: public garden or park with collection of animals for exhibition and study.
Our definition: Place where wild animals are kept and/or bred in captivity. Zoos are prisons. Prisons in which innocent individuals are kept incarcerated for their whole lives, though they have committed no crime.
Elephants, for example, in the wild, are used to travelling many miles a day in herds of about ten related adults and their offspring. They are very social animals.
In zoos, elephants are usually kept in pairs or even isolated. Their enclosures are incredibly small, compared to what they are used to in the wild, and as a result they often show many signs of being stressed out or bored, like engaging in repetitive movements. Stress behaviours can include repetitive movements, pacing back and forth, head bobbing, rocking, repeatedly retracing their steps, sitting motionless or biting the bars of their enclosure or themselves.
What makes life so difficult for zoo animals is that they hardly have any privacy and lack mental stimulation and physical exercise. Even though you might think that zoo animals would get used to a life in captivity, they really don’t. Even animals that are bred in zoos still retain their natural instincts after many generations of captive breeding.
Animals like polar bears or felines are used to hunting; this habit is replaced by the zoo with regular feedings. Most animals kept in zoos would naturally roam for tens of miles a day.
Zoos claim to help with conservation. However, hardly any zoo registers their animals on an international species database and most zoo animals are not endangered at all.
Even though there are thousands of endangered species, zoos have only been able to return about 16 species to the wild with varying level of success. Most zoo animals released in the wild don’t survive. This is because zoos don’t provide the right environment for a successful captive breeding project. The animals would need to live in habitats resembling their natural ones, especially in terms of climate and fauna. The animals would also need to be raised with minimal human contact and in populations large enough to provide a natural social balance and a suitable gene pool.
Surplus animals are the unwanted animals for whom there is no more space, when zoos have bred yet another cute little baby to attract visitors. They can even be the cute babies themselves when they’ve stopped being cute at the end of the season. Zoos have a systematic “overproduction” of animals. These surplus animals are either killed – and sometimes fed to their fellow zoo habitants – or sold to other zoos or dealers. Selling animals is a profitable way for zoos to dispose of them. Dealers will sell them to hunting ranches, pet shops, circuses, the exotic meat industry and research facilities. Surplus animals are also found for sale on the internet.
To sum up: DON’T GO TO THE ZOO! If a school trip is being organised, tell your teacher why you don’t like zoos and ask them to take you somewhere better. If they won’t listen, explain what zoos really are to your friends and then get together to petition the school. If they still won’t listen, just ask your parents to let you stay home from school that day. Maybe they could take you on a better trip instead, such as to a museum or art gallery.
That reminds me – see what Luke Walker, ‘animal stick up for-er’, did when he was forced to go on a trip to the zoo – now that’s a boy who acts on his conscience! (Though he is sadly unappreciated by those who know him 😉 )