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Zoos Are Actually Pretty Terrible

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ithaca chapter.

Going to the zoo and seeing a bunch of different animals is a lot of fun until you think about how the animals must feel.

Sometimes, animals are kept in zoos as part of conservation efforts, but that isn’t usually the case. For the most part, animals in zoos are there just to entertain people. While they’re entertaining us, the animals are cooped up in small pens and subjected to conditions they would never endure in the wild. Animals are taken out of the habitats they thrive in and placed into completely different climates. It can’t be healthy for polar bears to be in the summer heat or for giraffes to experience winter storms.

To make matters worse, some zoo animals are abused and mistreated. Zoos aren’t regulated in many countries, and although there are some laws protecting captive animals in the United States, they don’t do enough to protect zoo animals. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, there are no laws that directly address living conditions for animals and only warm-blooded animals are protected. Birds, rats and mice, farm animals and cold-blooded animals have no legislation to protect them. Although the UK requires zoos to meet certain conditions to obtain licenses, a licensed zoo in England was just shut down after a report found that nearly 500 animals had died in the span of just three years. The surviving animals were in terrible condition.

Even if zoo animals are properly taken care of, some animals don’t as long in captivity as they would in the wild. While wild African elephants can live up to 70 years, in captivity they’re lucky to make it to 20. Some animals, like mountain gorillas, can’t even survive in captivity. Granted, there are many animals that live longer in captivity than they would in the wild, but the quality of life certainly is not the same. Mix-ups and disasters can cause animal deaths as well. Two bush dogs were just killed in Palm Beach after zookeepers accidentally flooded the enclosure.

Zoos can be bad for people, too. Zookeepers are frequently injured and even killed on the job, Recently, a new zookeeper was killed by white tigers in India. We all know what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo last year, but the Harambe incident isn’t the only time a guest has fallen into an enclosure. In 2012, a toddler died after falling into a wild dog enclosure. Another toddler fell into a cheetah pit in 2015, but luckily, he survived. Numerous adults have jumped into enclosures on purpose and have been killed or injured. One Panda in China has bitten intruders on three different occasions. Usually, stupidity causes people to voluntarily enter animal enclosures, but in 1990, a heroic man saved a drowning chimpanzees life.

People defend zoos by saying they’re educational, but I doubt people learn a whole lot during zoo trips. Next time you’re looking for a fun and educational trip, try a museum instead. 

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Gillian was the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Ithaca from September 2018 to May 2019. She was a journalism major and anthropology minor at Ithaca College and graduated in May 2019. Gillian enjoys reading, writing, Harry Potter, the Sims and grilled cheese.