Since 1828 when the first zoo opened, animals have been held in captivity and given limited rights. In zoos animals are confined in closed spaces, have little privacy, and have few opportunities for physical exercise or mental stimulation. Although zoos provide much entertainment, the negative effects they have on animals can not be overlooked.
Not Enough Space
One of the main arguments against zoos is that animals are kept in confined spaces and do not have the ability to hunt, breed and interact with animals of their own kind. In one article by PETA it was found that “ Birds’ wings may be clipped so that they cannot fly, aquatic animals often go without adequate water, and many animals who naturally live in large herds or family groups are kept alone, or at most, in pairs.” This is significant because the natural habits of animals are ultimately being destroyed and animals cannot live like their normal selves. Supporters claim that zoos are meant to educate and inform the general public of animal species and how they live. However, in most cases visitors ignore the displays and do not take the time to learn about the animal species. It was found by PETA that when a curator followed around 700 zoo visitors, most completely ignored the display and were only focused on the animals. If the purpose of zoos is to educate society about animals, then more steps need to be made to achieve that goal.
Too Many People
Secondly, animals in zoos also have limited privacy and time to be alone. In most zoo habitats, the spaces are small and open to provide maximum viewing for visitors. This type of environment makes it difficult for animals to have time alone to rest and get away from overwhelming people. It was found in a study by Chris T Tromberg, a representative from the Department of Psychology at Sacramento City College that “the strange behavior to stress brought on by triggers such as the loud noise from zoo-goers, constant artificial lighting, exposure to temperatures that the species may not be adapted to survive in, lack of mobility and open space, set feeding times, and forced social settings.” Under these circumstances animals can become very stressed which in turn may lead to abnormal behavior such as biting the bars of the enclosure, vomiting, rocking back and forth, pacing, self harm, and many other unfortunate behaviors. All things considered, the outcomes of too much exposure to people can leave animals in pain both physically and mentally.
Very Little Exercise and Time for Mental Stimulation
In addition, the habitats of zoos can put an animal in a situation where there are no opportunities for exercise or mental stimulation. By continuing to do exercise and mental stimulation, animals are able to reduce stress and maintain well being. In the wild this may be done by hunting for prey, playing with fellow animals of the same species, natural breeding, and experiencing new things in the wild. However, in captivity all of these things are taken away which can overall reduce the chances to maintain a strong mental state. In one instance at Dudley Zoo in the West Midlands, all of the bears, apes, and elephants are kept in enclosures that are either too small, or unstimulating. A specific gorilla named Bonzo has been kept in a ‘horrifically small’ enclosure alone for 20 years. Cases such as these can cause animals to develop a variety of mental problems which can further lead to more serious instances of death.
What We Can Do
Considering these points and more, zoos can and have caused more harm than good. Because of this it would be wise to end the captivity of animals altogether and work to save and conserve them in the wild. Since this is a large goal that will most likely take years to accomplish, the best step would be to reach out to a local animal conservation program and work to support the habitats of the wild.