Beginning of Zoos
Zoos have been around in some state since ancient times, first showing up in Egypt. The keeping of these elegant animals was a sign of wealth. Fast forward a couple thousand years, London developed a zoo originally intended for scientific studies. The zoo had tropical and mammalian animals primarily. The interesting fact is how similar the enclosures were to current day zoos. The animals were kept in metal enclosures with walkways on either side so that the animals could be observed. After a few years the scientists decided to open the zoo to the public and allow all people to come and observe these exotic animals without having to travel all over the world! This seemed like a breakthrough potentially allowing for knowledge and a deep connection to nature. However, is this the best option for both parties involved?
This concept picture is fascinating. This primate cage appears identical to an enclosure that would be in a zoo of today’s standards. (Except for a little less of the Crown Victorian design style!)
I have been beyond lucky with the zoos around where I have resided. I was born in a town with one of the top 10 education-based children’s zoos in the entire United States. This allowed for me to go to a caring environment to learn about all types of animals I could ever dream of seeing. Year after year, and usually multiple times per year, I got to visit and learn something new every single time! Then, came time to attend University. I moved to Cincinnati and knew little about the area. While looking for internships and work opportunities I stumbled upon the zoo. The first thing I noticed about the website was their conservation tab. The Cincinnati zoo has one of the largest wildlife re-introductory programs. (Some conservation efforts included are on my favorite island, Sumatra!)
Shot taken by me at The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. What a beautiful creature to get to see so close!
Zoos have the potential to provide incredible education experiences for younger children. Most common ones will provide a brief excerpt on each of the animals being displayed. These excerpts include fantastic information to learn about how the animal behaves, what it eats, and where it occurs naturally. For hands on learners like myself, this type of education possibility is essential. Children are the future of our society; this education is going to largely benefit them to develop an understanding of how exotic animals behave. This education, for some, could lead to a real compassion for animals. This was the experience for me, in which I really fell for the tropical rain forest section. I loved monkeys and the exotic birds of prey contained, they were so unique! I never could have developed an interest in these specific tropical animals without getting to see them in person jump, play, eat, and communicate. Conservation is a rising career path and the field needs people with a deep love for wildlife. Not only do zoos provide for an educational experience they allow for animals to be rehabilitated or for endangered animals to be housed and reproduced to up the total number of animals in a given species. These conservation efforts are vital to provide sustainable biodiversity. The hardest question is are these benefits worth the harm?
It is no question that essentially all the animals that are contained in the zoo do not have enough room. This is apparent when you think about an animal’s natural environment. A wildebeest or elephant herd will travel very long distances following vegetation and watering holes. They repeat these routes and if they are taken out of their natural habitat they wont know where to walk or who to follow if they weren’t the lead bull and merely followed. This usually ends up being displayed as animal’s pace in their habitats. To them something feels very off. This could be due to them thinking that they are going to miss the next watering hole, run out of vegetation in the current area, or lastly that predators may catch onto their trail. Researchers have determined that most of the large carnivores in captivity are spending up to a third of their day in repetitive motion. The researchers also determined that this was due to either stress, instinct, or boredom. Animals that are born into the zoo will, at least, not have the shock of changing environments. With this brings consequences though, these specific animals especially if born in captivity are not always given chances to develop essential skills to hunt to obtain food. If the animals stay in the zoo it will not be as bad but if they are a part of a reintroduction program then they may struggle a bit more to catch prey, lowering their success rate. The final factor in the harm done is that these cages with lots close contact with multiple humans can be very high stress for certain animals. Lots of smaller critters such as rabbits can not handle constant people moving past them when they are in such confined spaces. This can lead to potential death of the animals or just a very sad and cruel life for the animal.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to zoos, but take with you this knowledge so that you can make your own informed decision on the future of sustainably living with wildlife.
Think green, friends!