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

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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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Letters345 said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm:
THIS IS NO TRUE!!!! I think the animals are very happy, and with all the polar bears in captivity, we have enough to save the secies when they go extinct in the wild!!!!!!
 
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sscheibe said...
Sept. 8, 2009 at 1:46 pm:
I agree with most of your stances you take regarding the treatment of animals in the zoo environment. But on the other hand, how am I supposed to believe many of your "facts" when they are not backed up with a source. You could be making half of these statements up, I don't know because you don't cite where you get your information from. I learned this in journalism class when I did an opinion piece on factory farms. I had to cite every piece of information I used- this m... (more »)
 
WriterFanaticThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 5, 2010 at 10:14 pm :
You are correct on that. But look, I have seen the DesMoines IA zoo. Its not bad, but conditions could be a lot better. Not all zoos are that bad though, there are a lot of in-betweens
 
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dgdgdgyuazopyubtfr said...
Jun. 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm:
pipi
 
Ahahahahahahahaaha replied...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm :
inapropriate
 
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LauraLuvsSmurfHats said...
Mar. 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm:
I think that some zoos are brill, coz they have big spaces and breed animals natrually to help them not to become indangered and then they release them when they think that they are healthy unuff and can cope.
 
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kittykat1234 said...
Feb. 15, 2009 at 9:19 pm:
Zoos try to educate the public about animals. Educating people is important. If children didn't go to see the animals, they could grow up thinking certain animals should be wiped off the face of the Earth. Also, animals in the wild aren't as happy and proud as you think. For instance, would a person rather have a wide open space with little food and try hunting and gathering? No, we like everything near by and easy to get. Many wild animals never make it to be adults. Lastly, zoos don't... (more »)
 
TrainManTy replied...
Jan. 18, 2010 at 7:11 pm :
I agree completely. And remember, the zoos aren't evil. They often don't have the space or the money to expand cages. I work in science education so I can attest that oftentimes things are much more complicated than they seem to outsiders. It's a very moving essay nonetheless! Nice job.
 
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26nessa said...
Jan. 29, 2009 at 11:51 pm:
This paper was heart-breaking to read. A lot is true, but the author can't say all zoos are like that. There are good zoos and bad zoos, it depends. And also sometimes the animals can't live in the wild for some reason. But I its true that we imprison animals for our entertainment; it makes you-or at least me-feel ashamed. The zoo business is an endless bad cycle. Animals are caught, bred and then what? How do we send them off?
I think that the author should go to the Wild An... (more »)
 
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hellokittyyy222 said...
Jan. 21, 2009 at 5:43 pm:
i dont rlly have an opinion on this but i guess it depends. some animals are better off in zoos, like injured or unhealthy ones. but stronger and healthy animals are not. i know that humans are curious and wants to learn about animals, but that doesnt mean we have to lock them up. im sure that we dont want to be locked up.
 
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SloopyMcCoy said...
Dec. 19, 2008 at 3:33 pm:
Have you ever read 'the life of pi'? It's an amazing book that changed my views on zoos... you should totally read it.
 
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i_hAtE~U-@LL said...
Dec. 16, 2008 at 6:27 pm:
the zoos dat i go 2 dont be having dis it has way more better
 
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zombieslayer101 said...
Dec. 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm:
i think there are some ways to look at a zoo bad or good bad because there stuck in fake biomes good because theres zoo keepers that feeds them and grooms to help them stay healthy
 
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WebkinzManiac12 said...
Dec. 1, 2008 at 2:00 pm:
I appreciate the article, for I also beleive in animals needing to roam free, or needing more space in their cages or enclosures.
 
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Vedette9 said...
Dec. 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm:
While I must applaud this author for their passion in shedding the light on an important subject, I must emphasize that this is not the full picture of zoos at all. In the first place, to call such neglectful zoos "modern" is grossly inaccurate, the true "Modern Zoo" works hard to research ways in which to further improve the care and keeping of their animals. It is the old-fashioned zoo that follows the examples of the past, in which zoos were either ignorant of or disregard... (more »)
 
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xjustsmiledearx said...
Nov. 17, 2008 at 7:44 pm:
Do you not realize that sometimes zoos can be good? Some of the animals in the zoo are animals that have been rescued, and so on. For the most part, the animals in the zoo HAVE to live there. They HAVE to, because they wouldn't survive otherwise. You can't take an animal that has been confined and given food and shelter for years and expect it to survive once placed back into the wild. The zoos and biologists and whatnot ARE working on finding ways to somewhat teach the animals how to survive. T... (more »)
 
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brandnewfashion said...
Nov. 12, 2008 at 12:25 am:
I agree with morningraisin
we should make some super real looking holographic zoo. 3D animals, and it would be much cheaper! No cleaning up, no feeding, no grooming, no medicine. And no torture!
It would be so much better,SAFE THE ANIMALS!*:
:D<3.
 
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Cetacean said...
Sept. 22, 2008 at 10:56 pm:
Wow. Anyone can see the passion that you put into this piece. Keep writing :)
 
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black jack crow said...
Sept. 16, 2008 at 2:11 am:
TeenInk.com/raw/Opinion/article/54624/Dont-Paint-All-Zoos-As-Inhumane/
Apparently someone else feels very differently about zoos than you do.
 
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wfmp07mifh said...
Aug. 22, 2008 at 1:11 am:
I believe the thing you're talking about, morningraisin, is called Zoo Tycoon. Lol.
And to Patrick, you write about a heart wrenching topic. Not putting down the human race or anything, but I'm betting that humans weren't the first to arrive on this planet. I believe that animals truly belong here, more than humans. We were given the power to decide and act upon thought out decisions, and yet we think that putting our animal friends in cages is helping them, when really were tampering in p... (more »)
 
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