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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 95 comments. Post your own now!

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? 
Ainse said...
Jan. 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm
I love this article- coincidentally, I was just writing a persuasive speech for a competition upon this same topic with points very similar to yours. Great job!
tinkerbell100 said...
Dec. 8, 2010 at 8:31 am
that was so sad i only came on this website for a school project but i am now inspired
zoe 35 replied...
Jan. 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm
i think so 2 it very much inspired me
moecheez said...
Nov. 22, 2010 at 11:26 am
i think keeping animals in the zoo is inhumane period. ask your self this question ? would you like to be taken away from your home and put behind a glass for everyone like you are but on display .what do they do with the animals when it gets to cold for them
ThePeaceDaisy replied...
Oct. 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm
They keep the cages heated for when it gets cold, I think. 
WintersRevenge said...
Nov. 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm

The first thing I want to say is that thank you for caring for these animals. But the second thing I want to say is that your statement is not even near the truth. 

Your writing is fantastic, but you have some major flaws in your idea. I will admit that there are a few zoos that fit your description, but the majority of zoos all over the world take care of their animals diligently. You state that animals are tortured by zoos. You are confusing zoos with circuses, which are not the... (more »)

Nommy. said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 7:11 am

First of all I just want to say that all your views on zoo's have obviously not been well researched. All the zoo's near my area are very repectable and they only do the best for their animals. you all talk about the size of the "tiny" enclosures but to be honest In my many numerous vists to my local zoo I have never once seen a enclosure of your description, most animals are kepy in large roomy enviorments that are well suited to their natural habbitats. Many zoo's spend lots of money on enr... (more »)

bethynomnom said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 7:11 am

ok then.

firstly dont start saying things you dont know! i have visited many zoo's and i have never seen an ill treated animal. i think your misunderstanding they do not badly treat them! zoo staff are thinking of there animals welfare 24/7 they are always the top priority. maybe if people would stop destroying their enviroment then you wouldnt need to complain. so maybe you should do something instead of judging the people who are working really hard to help!

Mrs Nom said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 7:09 am
animals are NOT kept in zoo for exibhition most are kept in enclosures for breeding programs && research to help our planets creatures !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ELM522 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 25, 2010 at 12:20 pm
I love animals, in fact I am a vegetarian because I feel bad for farm animals. However, I disagree with your statement. Zoo animals are injured animals that cannot be let back in the wild.
Caca man replied...
Sept. 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm
I dont ageer with you write something else
Harvardstar replied...
Dec. 26, 2010 at 10:46 pm
{*I don't agree with you, write something else.} Who cares if you agree or not! Your ''okay'' or ''no'' can't stop anyone from writing!
tianaxbiddy said...
Jul. 12, 2010 at 9:45 am
the way we can cut back zoos is by helpin the earth. but zoos shouldnt be around at all. there r ppl who have wideopen spaces for animals. there are family sanctuaries that treat animals with love and care that is where they should b not in zoos zoos in general no matter the care r cruel because of the small enclosed spaces
BlueRain said...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I agree, I've heard of too many zoos that treat their animals unfairly, and it makes me sick how little the public knows about this but still continues to go there and support it financially.

But one zoo that I went to, quite small too, probably had the best relationships with their animals. And this zoo didn't buy animals just for entertainment. They were a rescue for animals that would have otherwise been sold on the black market and probably killed. In fact while I was there they ha... (more »)

skywitch said...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm
Some zoos can be small but some are very big. I was suprized to see how large Disney Worlds Animal Kingdoms habits were. I also think zoos (at lest the zoos that I go to) egucate people. If anything I think we should ask how people in the circus how well they are treating their animals. After all Zooligests arn't taking care of them.
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