Zoos and Aquariums: Exploitation of Animals, not Education
Today 3,200 tigers roam free in the wild. Approximately 5,000 tigers are held in captivity at zoos around the world. These tigers are given a death sentence when they are brought to zoos for enjoyment and for “educational experience.” Just as humans who are held in solitary confinement express unusual mental behavior, many wild animals have begun to express abnormal behaviors while in captivity, ultimately harming their well being. Based on the dwindling numbers of wild animals and the unnatural behaviors the animals express, keeping animals in Zoos is an idea that has come and gone; keeping wild animals in captivity is unethical.
Various laws concerning wild animals in captivity cause confusion to what animals are protected while in zoos. There are three different levels of laws varying from the state to international. According to the article Overview of the Laws Affecting Zoos by Kali S. Grech, the author states that “On the federal level, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only statute that protects the welfare of individual zoo animals. Under the AWA, animals that meet the definition set forth in the statute, in the custody of a dealer or exhibitor, are protected by the statute. The definition of an animal, however, greatly limits the scope of the act. All cold-blooded animals, constituting a great number of the animals housed in zoos, are excluded from protection.” Animals are extremely diverse and are hard to make laws for. For endangered species getting a law that protects them is even harder. Grech also notes that “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) applies only to specifically listed animals, and even then it only regulates the import or export of species being bought or sold in foreign commerce.” The exclusive laws set forth for wild animals make fair treatment of animals inside and outside of zoos close to impossible.
Although zoos might seem to be a success, zoos and aquariums are false advertisements to the public.Once wild animals are captured and arrive at a zoo, they’re trapped in a cage for the rest of their life, just as humans are when they’re sentenced to prison for life. Most exhibits within a zoo or aquarium lack the sufficient space a large wild animal such as a tiger or killer whale needs to live and some of these exhibits can physically harm an animal’s skin.. For example, a killer whale, also known as an orca is extremely large in size when compared to most captive wild animals. In the article Marine Mammals in Captivity posted by Canadian Federation of Humane Society , the article states that killer whales “live in pods of two to fifty whales and swim up to 100 miles in a day and dive to depths of 500 feet [and that orcas] prefer deep water and usually spend 10 to 20 per cent of their time at the surface.” The effect of not being able to live like they do in the wild can be seen in zoos around the world. The article also explains that the wild animals exhibits cause the mammals to “swim in circular patterns, unable to live and swim naturally.” In order for the world to see the animal the tanks have to be extremely clear. The world fails to realize that these animals are swimming in chemicals. For lack of money, the insufficient space is likely never to be expanded once the animal is in his exhibit.If the zoo or aquarium to chose natural waters for their animals, most aquatic tanks would not have an animal in view. Even if the zoos or aquariums make an exhibit larger, the space will never be match an animal’s natural environment.
Living space is not the only aspect that causes abnormal behavior. Another cause of unnatural behavior is the lack of stimulation and foraging behaviors in zoos. These abnormal behaviors can cause reintroduction to the wild to be difficult and lead to unhealthy animals. According to the article Can Wild animals have mental illness? by Ida Korneliussen, the author states “Animals can engage in compulsive actions if they don’t get what they seek and need . . . This is because they cannot escape the cage to look for food.” Animals in captivity that face unusual environments are not able to function as they would out in the wild where they can explore for food and partners. Because the animal’s acclimation to a zoo environment, the captive animals’ lack of natural behavior causes a problem if the animals are ever introduced back out into the wild; the animals’ behavior will differ and the animals would be used to zoo behavior versus wild behaviors.
On a typical day, a zoo visit consists of the observer spending little to no time at each exhibit, examining an animal in a small space.In the article Zoos:An idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) explains that zoos are exploitation to the animals and not education. PETA states that “most zoo visitors simply wander around the grounds, pause briefly in front of some displays, and spend their time on snacks and bathroom breaks.” There is no educational value to a zoo trip if there is only a very small time spent where the animals are. The organization also explains “visitors spent less than eight seconds per snake exhibit and only one minute with the lions.”Only spending such a small amount of time per animal exhibit is not a convincing argument about learning how a wild animal lives. People should be spending minutes or even more time such as hours learning about the animals they are examining.Without zoos having an educational aspect there is no reason to exist.
Thousands of people daily embark on a zoo trip deeming the visit to be educational. During a zoo visit one may see a wild chimp eating his waste or pacing back and forth and believe that it’s his normal behavior without thinking twice about it. In fact, according to the website Zoo Chimps’ Mental Health affected by Captivity “self-mutilation, repetitive rocking, and consumption of feces, are symptoms of compromised mental health in humans, and are not seen in wild chimpanzees.” Often what is seen to be “normal” behavior is overlooked by the people visiting but seriously concerns many researchers. The lack of observation from the zoo visitors are evident in children, who usually go on “educational” school trips. Zoos are popular school trips. According to studies by CAPS (Captive Animals’ Protection Society) in Zoos neither educate nor empower children, newly published research suggests, the organization states that “Only 38% of children were able to demonstrate positive learning outcomes.” CAPS study also concluded that “Majority of children (62%) were deemed to show no change in learning or, worse, experienced negative learning during their trip to the zoo.” Zoos can’t be deemed one hundred percent educational. Even if people learned something from their visit about an animal’s behavior, the chances are high that the information is inaccurate because captive animals don’t usually express natural behaviors. The owners of the zoo are keeping them up and running and do not plan to close down. While many people get nothing other than a souvenir and a some photos, the animals are a day closer to death because the zoos are open.
Some animals that reside in captivity are endangered species. Researchers who work with these wild animals are devoted to caring for these species so that they don’t die off as a whole. In the wild they may not be able to fend for themselves on their own without help. Captive animals are provided with food to survive and the basic necessities to live. For example, different types of birds can’t survive in natural disasters. A such event happened in Puerto Rico in 1989 by Hurricane Hugo wiping a whole bird population to only thirteen birds. According to 8 Zoos Helping Animals Edge out of Extinction “Today, thanks to the efforts of zoo scientists at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, captive-bred birds at two aviaries number over 200 — and reintroduction is underway. Some 60 wild and captive-born Puerto Rican parrots now live free.” Without the help of the research at the zoo who took the species in their hands, these birds would no longer exist on the earth today. If reintroduction works the population of the birds could be larger in the wild as time passes. Although bringing species in captivity for breeding programs that prevent extinction can be useful, it is not fair for that animal to not be released and die in his exhibit. Zoos should not be where endangered animals reside. Once in captivity the animal faces chances of developing abnormal behavior because of the animal’s new environment.
Animals will continue to have a death sentence if the Zoo’s around the world continue to stay open. Zoos and aquariums are slowly causing animals to disappear because the animals are not being reintroduced back into the wild. Captive animals have a huge risk in developing behaviors that are close to human mental illness. Confinement of these animals are unfair to their well being. Places that hold animals in captivity are unethical. Even with laws regarding wild animals, the animals are harmed. Although there are some advantages to bringing the animals in captivity, the disadvantages for the animal outweigh the advantages.
Korneliussen, Ida. “Can Wild Animals Have Mental Illness?” ScienceNordic. N.p., 24 June 2015. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
“CFHS | Marine Mammals in Captivity.” RSS. Canadian Federation of Human Societies, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
“Zoo Chimps’ Mental Health Affected by Captivity : DNews.” DNews. Web. 2 Nov. 2015
“Zoos: An Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone.” People For the Ethical Treatment Of Animals. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2015.
“Zoos Neither Educate nor Empower Children, Newly Published Research Suggest.” Captive Animals’ Protection Society. N.p., 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.
Lombardi, Linda. “Animals Saved From Extinction By Zoos.” Vetstreet. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
“More Tigers in American Backyards than in the Wild.” WWF. N.p., 29 July 2014. Web.
Grech, Kali S. “Overview of the Laws Affecting Zoos.” Animal Legal and Historical Center. N.p., 2004. Web.