For me zoos have always been a controversial issue. On one hand, zoos hold animals in an extremely unnatural environment, oftentimes apart from their family or herd members, and in spaces that are much too small for them. Many animals are impeded from doing natural activities such as running, flying, swimming, and hunting. They are either captured or bred in captivity, and have very or no chance of ever surviving in the wild again. Many would say that zoos are unethical. However, on the other hand, from and endangered species standpoint, zoos raise awareness about endangered species. Most exhibits have information about the species status, where it originates from, threats to its existence, and other facts. An argument against this however, is that zoos only take in the most charismatic animals and that there are many endangered or threatened species that are not in the care of zoos. Many zoo animals are also rescues. Zoos (or other institutions who then give the animals to zoos) take in sick or injured animals and nurse them back to health. Some animals never recover fully or cannot be placed back in their natural habitats and so they are cared for in zoos. Zoos and other animal sanctuaries sometimes take in the last few members of a species in a last ditch effort to save the species altogether via breeding and close supervision. I guess what it really boils down to is how the zoo is being operated and for what purposes. I would like to think that most zoos are only rescuing animals in need and working solely to raise awareness about threatened and endangered species, but I know this simply isn’t the case. Many zoos still buy animals that were captured in the wild and taken from their natural habitats. Realistically, in most cases, zoos are businesses trying to make money rather than animal sanctuaries who are trying to save species. Does this mean we should all stop going to the zoo? The University of Rochester recently announced that it would no longer have a petting zoo available on the quad during Spring Weekend activities due to the unethical treatment of the animals during the carnival. Many students and student groups were in favor of this change and happy to see the event go. As more awareness of animal treatment in zoos comes to light, it might be possible that zoos will see less activity in coming years.
Written by Alyssa Lemire, Class of 2017
Photo source: pixabay.com