Conservation or Captivity?

Pictured: The debate over whether zoos are ethical or not has been contentious for many years. (Source: Jonas Schmid via flickr)


By Christopher Jones

The idea that zoos are evil institutions concerned only with making money and entertaining the public with little care for the welfare of their animals is outdated. While this caricature is true of older zoos where animal cruelty was sadly a common trait, most modern zoos are fully committed to ensuring the welfare and survival of the animals they house. Take, for example, Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Despite being its most popular exhibit, the decades old elephant attraction, which was once state-of-the-art but had since become an inadequate enclosure for the massive mammals, was closed after demands were made by conservation groups that it was unethical to keep the animals there. The zookeepers had no legal obligation to give in to these demands, but a growing concern for the wellbeing of animals in both zoos and society in general meant they were willing to shutter their most profitable enclosure.

As to the oft-criticised inclusion of the paying public in these carefully designed and mediated environments, the counter argument is simple: inspiration. There are few things more immediately fascinating to a child than the animals at the zoo.

This love of nature, inspires many children to pursue professions where they too might interact with animals; perhaps as a scientist working to better understand them and their thoughts, or as a conservationist fighting for their continued survival, or in any other way that might help nature coexist with humanity. And this isn’t limited to children either; anyone who visits a zoo, seeing first-hand the importance and beauty of the natural world, can be inspired, whatever their age.

And if for nothing else, the public’s participation in the zoo ecosystem means money is flowing into an establishment working towards natural preservation. Ultimately, what makes zoos still necessary is acts of preservation like this that, far from trying to harm animals, ensure they are still around for us to see.


By Emily Murray

I don’t understand how any one would want to have their photo taken with a tiger that has purposefully been sedated so that you can go near it. In China they had a polar bear living in the Grandview Mall. I don’t find anything grand about that. I see that as a form of torture. Footage I have seen of the bear shows him to be mentally drained and depressed. Where he was kept was completely unsuitable for him, so entirely different from his natural habitat.

The Harambe disaster just highlights how messed up zoos are. If we’re going to steal a gorilla from the wild and stick him in a pit, at least ensure that he is safe and that visitors are safe. He’s a gorilla. A wild animal that should be living in a jungle with a troop of gorillas, not stuck in a pit alone where all he sees is people peering in on him – animals different to him and that he doesn’t understand. No wonder he dragged that little girl around. He didn’t understand her. He’d never seen a child before. He had to die because an irresponsible parent let their child climb over the railings to get a better look. They’re WILD animals. Hence, they should be in the WILD.

It’s so twisted that that we use captured animals in zoos to raise money to look after and conserve sights for wild animals to live in in their natural habitat. So the majority have to suffer so that the minority in the wild can benefit? The wild ones, who are going extinct, because we enslave them as pets, force them to dance and jump through flaming hoops in zoos, and rip of their fur to cover our own backs with?

We are putting our own fleeting entertainment before the animals’ happiness. They don’t want to be in captivity. Who would want to get pleasure from an animal that is being forced against their will?

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