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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naturelover123 said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 9:21 pm
Yes...some enclosures are too small (sickening), but some zoos are huge with tons of room for many animals! Not all zoos are horrible. Still, this article brings attention to an important issue. I like the end especially...about donating money.
Abby R. said...
Mar. 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm
The Minnesota Zoo is not like this at all. All the animals are happy and they aren't kept in small spaces they are rather big. Barely any zoo's mistreat the animals and if there is a huge puplic zoo that is like that why would it still be running. Zoo's are a good place for people that want to have jobs when they grow up with or around animals. I want to be a shark biologist there is only one problem right now. I live in Minnesota no sharks in the lakes here. So until i am old eno... (more »)
lovelauren3 replied...
Mar. 3, 2010 at 8:08 pm
I completely agree with you, Abby. The Minnesota Zoo is, although in captivity other than wildlife, a great place for the animals to live. The space is more than enough for the number of animals and none of them seem to be upset, although I wouldn't be fully able to know that, since I'm not a shark-whisperer or anything. I believe that there may not be enough space in some zoos, but I don't fully agree with this article. I think you took the steryotypical route and basically preju... (more »)
BlueRain replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm
Oh yes, I've heard alot of good things about the Minnesota Zoo especially about their wolves. I want to go there really badly, i first heard about them through WolfQuest.
slightlymad said...
Feb. 9, 2010 at 8:31 pm
Animals are our little brothers and sisters, would yo do that (insert word of choice) to your siblings?
i-go-by-syd said...
Feb. 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm
I wish that us humans took better care of the animals they deserve it
Well written by the way
WriterFanatic This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 5, 2010 at 10:11 pm
Its Terrible. You are so correct. What irritates me is that we don't treat these animals with respect do we? I mean, we are supposed to be the more intelligent race. So....why are we acting like savages? Yet these animals have no more places to go. Some of these animals have next to zip habitats. Thats whats frustrating!
Anh_Tho said...
Dec. 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm
Consider this- when you keep fish in a bowl aren't you 'imprisoning' them? Their natural habitats aren't meant to be a bowl right? But look at the bright side, at least they have food, shelter, no predators and can live to a healthy old age unless someone forgets to clean the bowl. Same with animals in zoos. They don't have freedom as the wild animals do but they do live happy lives.
AnneOnnimous replied...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 5:08 pm
good point..but they don't necessarily have the lives they are meant to lead. Personally, I think that any creature- an animal or a person, or even a small micro organism- is only properly that species when they are living where they were built to live, how they were built to live.
BlueRain replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

i only partially agree. Zoos don't have the best conditions but yes the animals are safe.

However if it was me I'd rather be killed naturally from a predator that die from an unusually long life in an exhibit. As they say, Don't trade freedom for safety. Because a safe closed life is not a life at all.

Runner12 said...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 10:42 pm
This author is would some zoo owner like it if some alien abducted him and put him on display in some other worldly zoo and couldn't go back to Earth and treated him like he did to the zoo anilmals
Letters345 said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:25 pm
EXATLY!!!!!!! Hs the author even BEEN to or even HEARD of the San Diego Zoo? The enclousers are HUGE!!!!!!
Letters345 replied...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm
whoops..... wrong place!! lol
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!!!!!!
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 »)
WriterFanatic 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
dgdgdgyuazopyubtfr said...
Jun. 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm
Ahahahahahahahaaha replied...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm
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.
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 »)
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