Think about it: the zoological park in which living animals are subjected to strict confinement; where they must live a life that, no matter the size and ‘naturalness’ of the cage, is wholly different from the natural one to which they are suited; where their instincts are dulled, tamed, and corrupted (eating involves no hunting or foraging and sexual relations are interfered with and closely monitored) allows such seemingly needless suffering to fellow creatures that we, as (hopefully) ethical animals, must not only supply a very good reason for this subjugation, but also live up to it… the zoo should be a local Conservation Center, focusing wholly on saving (or reinstating) species in the wild and on educating the public about the importance of conservation and biodiversity. […]
Zoos sometimes believe that captive animals themselves are sufficient education… Yet what do captive animals - lacking context - teach one about the natural world and its importance?… A visitor can look through the glass and see an insect, a snake, or a reptile and “learn” nothing more than this: they are boring, because they just sit there… It’s also difficult to wrap one’s head around an animal being endangered when it’s three feet in front of you. Without context - without quality information in a variety of forms - zoos only teach us illusions regarding nature and conservation, yet many zoos still believe that caged animals will say it all. […]
Zoos need to take these conservation issues and make them applicable. If they want to stop logging in Borneo to save the orangutans, why doesn’t the zoo provide a list of tropical woods to avoid purchasing? In addition, why don’t they highlight that the rainforest isn’t being cut for Borneo’s needs, but for western and Asian consumption? To tackle the bushmeat trade, zoos could address the larger issue of poverty in Africa… The zoo, as a conservation center, must make visitors aware of their responsibility in fixing these global problems. For in the end it is lack of funds, awareness, resources, and will that continually allows our world to be ravaged in unsustainable and wasteful ways. […]
While quality education may be lacking at most zoos, they are still doing great things in the conservation world. The Bronx Zoo, arguably one of the best in the world, is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which currently has 660 field projects around the world… But this leaves me with a question: why are these conservation initiatives not proclaimed? Why don’t zoo visitors see information first-hand about what their local zoo (or zoos across the world) are working on? I’m not talking about just a little plaque and a few words, but an in-depth description of the project and its goals. Let the visitor know that zoos do not exist solely for visitors’ needs, but as research institutes and bases for overseas and local conservation. Allow them to comprehend that animals are not mere entertainment for humans, but a vital part of ecosystems around the world that make our Earth as wondrous (and effective) as it is. […]
If wild animals are not allowed to strike awe in the visitor and to be used as an opportunity to educate them about the decisions they (or their governments) make that affect their wild relatives, then their incarceration is not merely reasonless, but criminal. These animals are ambassadors for wilderness, for a biodiverse earth, for the planet as it is (or even as it was). This is not a role they have chosen, but one we have forced upon them. Zoos have a moral obligation to achieve the most good out of this sad state of affairs.