BY: JULIA WINTON

A zoo is an establishment that maintains a collection of wild animals, typically in a park or garden, for study, conservation, or display to the public. While many may picture zoos as a positive place with many benefits for the community, zoos are prisons for innocent animals that cast a negative effect on the community.

One must question the ethics behind holding abundant numbers of animals in captivity. It’s common for some of these animals to be mistreated by visitors within zoos when the visitors do not keep their boundaries. For instance, in 2016, zoo workers killed a gorilla named Harambe to save a three-year-old boy who invaded the gorilla’s enclosure. The gorilla, who did nothing wrong, was punished for the visitor’s actions. This could have all been prevented if the gorilla was living out in the wild instead of being stuck inside a confined space all day. Captive animal lives are secondary to the lives of humans when they should be equal or even put before humans, in some ways, because many species are beginning to become endangered and extinct. These poor animals are locked in a small, enclosed space with no power or control, having people observe and mistreat them all day. These creatures need to be treated in the way in which humans want to be treated, with the freedom to roam their surroundings and be free to make their own decisions.

It is also extremely difficult for animals held captive or even bred in captivity in zoos, who are used to living in a small enclosure and are fed and trained by trainers to return or enter into the wild.  Animals are forced into the wild without gradually easing into the vast, life-changing transition. Newborns born in a zoo environment are a part of breeding programs and these create a dependence on captivity. Also, there is no guarantee these breeding programs work. For instance, up through the 1990s, just 30% of the Giant Pandas in captivity could successfully reproduce. When the cubs were born, more than 60% of them would die while still in infancy. Survival percentages have risen to over 70% since then, but this is because of artificial insemination and husbandry efforts that essentially force the newborn cub to be reliant on humans for, potentially, its entire life. If these zoo animals raised in captivity are released into the wild they will most likely die because of malnutrition and predator attacks.

It appears that the ultimate goal of zoos is the conservation of animals, to save the lives of a variety of endangered species. However, most of the time, zoos use this goal as a faux pas and a marketing technique to cater to a visitor’s sympathy, getting more people to support the purpose of and financially support zoos. Therefore, some zoos mistreat animals and use the idea of conservation with the wrong intentions in mind to attract more tourists and make more money. This explains why keeping animals in captivity is so detrimental to their health. Animals in zoos do not have any control over their lives, leading them to become depressed and frustrated. This inherent stress, called zoochosis, forces them to exhibit self-destructive, repetitive behavior.

With all factors considered, zoos are unnecessary because they demonstrate a harmful impact on the community and the animals within the zoos. The action of keeping animals locked up in confined spaces all day is unethical, as well as making it impossible and unsafe for them to return back to the wild once their species replenishes. Zoos do not serve a real purpose except for torturing animals and lying about their intentions to prosper; therefore, all zoos should be eliminated or modified to accompany the needs of animals and their safety.