The Modern Zoo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I would like to begin by defining “zoo.” It is a park-like area in which live animals are kept in cages or large enclosures for public exhibit. Hold on, large enclosures? More like tiny cages. As zoo funds are cut, cages become smaller with less foliage.

To many people it is obvious that keeping an elephant in a small enclosure is unkind. Zoos assert claims of conservation, research, and education, and most visitors buy it. They believe that keeping polar bears locked up in “sanctuaries” with fake ice is better than to have them out in the wild. This is understandable, since the polar ice is melting. However, both problems are caused by humans: global warming contributes to the ice melting, and the need for constant entertainment creates zoos. A survey taken by the World Society for the Protection of Animals found that 80 percent of people believed animals were not receiving proper treatment.

Zoos claim to educate visitors. Yet we’ve all seen the one-sentence signs that describe monkeys. What can be learned from this? Certainly not enough to justify inhumane captivity.

These animals are simply meant to entertain. For example, look at the red pandas at the Bronx Zoo. Are they treated with respect? No: these pandas are a few feet from hundreds of cars zooming by on the expressway, with only a fence to separate them. Are these fit conditions for an almost-extinct animal?

Zoo animals endure inadequate living conditions with no space. Captive populations are not large enough to provide a good gene pool to preserve their species, and they have too much interaction with humans. Yet people will still come to see these rare animals that belong thousands of miles away. It just shows how desperate we’ve become for entertainment. This is the ultimate disrespect to a species.

The claim that most zoos make to justify the captivity of animals is increasing destruction of natural habitat. The rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of thousands of acres a day. Animals have been breeding and migrating for a long time. And they’ve done it well. The destruction of the environment is a valid reason for helping them. But a line must be drawn between help and destruction.

Many zoos have the problem of surplus animals due to excessive breeding. What do you think the zoos do with them? Mostly they destroy them. Normally animals leave their parents and venture into the wild when they come of age, but zoo captivity does not allow for this. Woburn Safari Park recently admitted that they kill surplus monkeys. Sometimes the animals are packed like trash and shipped off to other zoos. Or they are what zoos call “recycled” (fed to other species in the zoo). Other surplus animals are given to laboratories for experiments.

By 2010 the world will have almost seven billion people. Thus the need for more zoos arises. Where will these animals come from? Certainly many will be bred in captivity, yet the majority are caught in the wild. About 35 species of animals go extinct every day in the rainforest. Perhaps taking these animals to zoos is better than allowing them to die in the diminishing wild, but clearly the conditions in zoos must be improved.

Is the power and beauty of nature apparent in zoos? This is what they claim to give you for your money. A zoo cage typically consists of a few animals sitting in confinement with nothing but plastic trees and brick walls. Their eyes hold a lifetime of sadness and emptiness. Can you blame them? Every day people stare at them, tap on the glass, and make faces to scare them or get them to move. Signs prohibit photography, yet tourists still take pictures. They don’t understand or care how much the flash terrifies the animals. A recent study found that, on average, visitors spent less than three minutes looking at each exhibit – some even as little as nine seconds. It is true that we get to see animals we otherwise wouldn’t. Without zoos we’d have to see them on TV or read about them. But is a minute of pleasure enough to justify a life sentence of confinement in a tiny cage?

Animals are tortured by zoos. Many lions will walk around in circles all day. This kind of behavior is especially apparent in tall animals like elephants and giraffes, which might chew the plastic foliage or bang on the bars of their cages. Some monkeys turn to self-mutilation after they have expended all the amusement provided in their cages. Birds are not able to fly in their mesh enclosures. Some stop trying. After a few years, most can no longer fly.

The night quarters are the worst. We do not see the tiny cages behind the chimpanzee enclosure where they are locked up with hardly enough room to move. But most animals just hide and sleep, like a never-ending hibernation.

More zoos will be created in the next 25 years. In captivity the once-proud creatures of the wild exhibit only shame. Shame on the human race for doing this to these animals. Perhaps the future of these animals does rest in zoos, but we can make zoos more humane. By doing simple things such as donating $5 to a project designed to stop zoo cruelty or increase the cage size, you can make a difference.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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yomoma1 said...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm
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yo momwe3d said...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm
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thatpersonwhosalive said...
Jan. 21, 2012 at 9:50 am
Our zoo IS humane and has large enclosures. There were 3 monkeys (gold lion tamarans) in a 5x10 cage. They're also building a new enclosure for polar bears which will be nicer than the current one (our zoo was also home to Debbie, oldest bear in captivity!)
AyeLove<3 said...
Jan. 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm
that's sad.... D:
Neonblue replied...
Nov. 6, 2015 at 3:04 pm
I agree with u its horrible...
arcanine24 said...
Dec. 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm
i agree, but some zoos are humane
Luminescent said...
Dec. 23, 2011 at 5:23 pm
Not all zoos are inhumane. If you've good zoos, you'll see that the animals are very well taken care of. I have a great aunt who comes to visit occasionally who works at the zoo. On trips there a few times, she's guided us around. They have some amazing exhibits, and the zookeepers take care to make sure the animals have entertainment, good food, and are in an environment that is identical to their wild one. I've even watched zookeepers get into water fights with the elephants, who have a great... (more »)
ellebell1919 said...
Dec. 23, 2011 at 12:38 am
You told all about how negative zoos are and how we must change this but to conclude you had one sentence about how we can donate five dollars to an organization that you didn't even name! Please add on to this piece saying what we can actually do to help. This was very imformative and really opened my eyes to this problem, which is great but it would be even better if you went on to say how I can help!
minty-fresh said...
Oct. 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm
Totally disagree. It seems like you're describing circuses, not zoos. "Creatures of the wild" have no idea they're in captivity, and the habitats created for them are as close as you can get. Also...what zoos have you been going to?! Zoo volunteers and workers choose that job because they genuinely care about animals! Why would they be mistreating them? I've never been to a zoo where the animals are kept in cages...their natural habitats are replicated, and it's always a large enough space for t... (more »)
RedFeather replied...
Nov. 9, 2011 at 7:51 am
Totally disagree with you. Yes, most cages are enough for them to walk around in, but that's not big enough! In the wild, most animals travels miles every day. They need to travel throughout their territory. How would you like to be put in an apartment building and never be able to leave it? That's what zoos are doing to these animals! I'll admit to going to the zoo pretty often, but I hate seeing how sad the poor animals are! I kind of understand why that guy in Ohio released all of his exotic ... (more »)
Lives for teh Tigerz replied...
Jan. 18, 2012 at 5:22 pm
I disagree with this article as well. Working at a Zoo i have more knowledge on Zoos that this ignorant writer. If we released the animals back into the wild they wouldnt have the survival skills to live. ANIMALS IN ZOOS MAY ARENT TAKEN OUT OF THE WILD THEY ARE BRED IN CAPTIVITY! The animals at the zoo i worked at had a blast all summer long with all the toys and other animals to interact with. They actually do have many programs to educate visitors. It isnt an empty thing to make it seem like ... (more »)
Audrey M. said...
Jun. 12, 2011 at 8:34 am
killaboui replied...
Dec. 1, 2011 at 11:44 am
umm o.k. :)
AshAsh8484 said...
Mar. 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm
you do relize that certin animals can not live in the wild like albino animals they have vision probems therefor they can't fend for themselves.
Authorgal98 said...
Mar. 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm
Amazing voice, it's very clear that you did a heck of a lot of research on this! Great job, think of freelance or presuasive (sp?) writing for a career one day. Keep writing. :)
james14 replied...
Dec. 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm
yeah, it's spelled PERsuasive.
leafy said...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm
are you kidding me? i thought her voice was very forceful (but in a good way) and i liked the piece. keep up the good work!
skull replied...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm
i thinkhis essay is good 
TuffGurl said...
Jan. 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm
You write very choppy sentences, and you don't use prepositions properly. This piece is okay; there isn't much emotion in it. I can't really tell how YOU feel about this. This article is very informative, but... I don't see the drive to help these animals. And where did you get this information?
storywritinggirl replied...
Feb. 18, 2011 at 11:08 pm
Obviously, they're saying that they're against this and I happen to think it's a good article that really gets the word out there. I'll bet you learned something new, which seems to be the point, does it not? 
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