Animals Behind Bars

This picture is a perfect example of an animal's boredom while in captivity.(source)

Zoos are a major form of entertainment for children and adults alike. “Each year, over 175 million people visit zoological institutions accredited by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and countless other Americans visit smaller local zoos and animal shows across the country.” The zoo seems like such a great place to enjoy family time. My personal thoughts on zoos are that some but not all zoos treat animals unfairly. The reason I think this is because whenever I go to a zoo the animals look very lazy and unhappy. The animals do not have a huge amount of space to roam free like they would have in the wild. The zoo animals are stuck in the same space all day with no way to escape.

This photo shows the size of an elephant habitat at a zoo. Though the habitat is large it is not big enough for the animal.(source)

I have seen many arguments that animals live longer in zoos and that being in captivity is for their own good. But after doing research this seems to not be true. Animals get a lot more exercise in the wild because they have more space to roam than when they are stuck in a cage. Such as elephants. “They walk up to 40 miles a day. They play, bathe in rivers and engage in constant exercise. In their natural environment, they can live up to 60 or 70 years.”

Maybe the reason that elephants live longer in the wild than in captivity is because they are happier being around other elephants. (source)

Elephants in captivity can be a totally different story.

“In captivity, elephants are often kept alone or in units of two or three. They’re deprived of the socialization that’s necessary for their well being, and frequently show abnormal signs of stress like head bobbing. Often, they’re chained in place and receive little to no exercise. They frequently become depressed and overweight, and depending on where they’re kept, can be subjected to abuse by bullhooks and in other forms. Because of the various stresses and unnatural conditions, elephants in captivity often die before the age of 40. They’re prone to chronic health problems including tuberculosis, arthritis, and foot abscesses, and breeding programs have proved unsuccessful, with many calves dying prematurely.”

This is not only the case with elephants but many other animals at the zoo.

Some zoos can be a lot like a jail in many different aspects. The only difference is that the inmates in zoos are animals and they haven't committed crimes. (source)

When I see an animal in a zoo it reminds me of a jail. It’s like the animals are being punished while zoo owners are making money by using them as showpieces. I often wonder if there is any real love being put into the care that is provided to the animals. When a human is trapped in a small space it seems to make them crazy is this what is happening to these animals? “Opponents of zoos do have some evidence to back these assertions. A 2008 study discovered that elephant zoological habitats are, on average, about 1,000 times smaller than their wild habitats and that polar bears are confined in spaces around a million times smaller than their arctic territories.” The reason for zoos is so that animals can flourish but if they are not better off then why are they still in zoos? “Zookeepers have long recognized that some species thrive in captivity while others languish. Today the researchers, Dr. Georgia Mason and Dr. Ros Clubb, say the problems — including high infant mortality and a tendency to pace around and around in the cage — are directly related to the size of the animal’s home range in the wild.”

This lion is in a cage that is way too small for his size. He seems to be hitting his head against the wall. (source)

Some animals have done well and have seemed very content in zoos. Maybe the reason for this is because different types of animals have different needs. Some animals need a lot of space where as other animals are happy with the little space that they have. “Dr. Mason, the Oxford researcher, said animals that have comparatively smaller ranges — including grizzly bears, American mink, red and Arctic foxes, and Eurasian lynx — seem to do well in captivity.” I feel that some zoos don’t have the necessary means to take care of particular animals.

Grizzly bears seem to flourish in zoos. These bears at the detroit zoo have a beautiful habitat. (source)

Perhaps instead of the traditional zoo that we have today some changes can be made to make the animals happier and less stressed. Maybe zoos can change the way that the animals are kept by having open fields for each kind of animal. These fields would all be separated from one another and each one would fit each animal’s particular needs. Often times in zoos I have seen animals by themselves in cages without any animals like them. I think the animals would be much happier if they could live like the way that they would in the wild if living in the wild was not an option for that animal.

This is an example of an open range zoo. Not as many animals are exhibited in an open range zoo so that they can be kept in a more natural state. (source)

On the other hand, if the animals were allowed to roam free many of the animals would die because the natural instincts of the animals would start to kick in and they would start to fight and hunt. The whole point of zoos is to conserve the animals and to keep endangered species alive but if they were all allowed to be free they may not survive. It would also be a lot easier for the animals to escape if they were in open fields. The reason that they are behind lock in key is for the protection of visitors and the people taking care of the animals.

This zoo keeper seems to love and care about the rhino. (source)

I’m not saying that all zoos are bad I have been to my fair share of really good zoos with animals that looked happy. On the other hand, I definitely think that some zoos have major problems that need to be fixed. “The majority of zoos, especially those accredited by the AZA, are filled with caring animal keepers, handlers, and experts who simply love animals. Not to mention, zoos act as educational tools for the broad public, allow for the breeding and revitalization of endangered species, and permit animal research to be conducted in a controlled setting.” The reason I was interested in this topic is because I see a major problem that some animals are facing from humans even though we are supposed to be helping them. So ask yourself would you want to be in their position.