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Praises and Critiques of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo

For many, going to the zoo can bring nostalgic childhood memories and an inspiring interest in wildlife! My roommate (fellow Her Campus SPU writer/editor, Emma Wick) and I visited Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo recently, and rekindled our childhood love of zoos. We also observed the park and its habitats critically, taking note of what might be improved for the animals there. Read on for a brief list of pros and cons about the Woodland Park Zoo!

Woodland Park is rated as one of the more ethical zoos in America, as its focuses are mainly on the well-being of the animals and conservationist goals. Emma and I had a great time visiting the zoo, and took note of a few things we liked in particular!

Variety of animals

We were lucky to see all sorts of creatures at the zoo, from penguins and flamingos to rhinos and orangutans! It’s wonderful for children to be able to come face to face with animals they might not otherwise get exposure to, as it invites them to develop an interest in their well-being. Broadening our horizons about the creatures of this world is so important!

Companionship among animals

Many of the animals we encountered at Woodland Park Zoo were in great company with other animals. The penguins and elk specifically seemed to have a good amount of friends in their habitats. Many animals in captivity develop depression due to loneliness, so I was glad to see these animals living amongst others like them!

Beautiful walking paths

The walk through the zoo was so pleasant. Plenty of trees and bushes neatly lined the paved walking paths between exhibits, which made for an even more wild experience. When you are walking through the zoo, you nearly forget that you’re in a major city! This really helps visitors empathize with nature and appreciate the natural habitats of the animals. 

COVID conscious

The employees at Woodland Park are really great at mediating social distancing measures and mask wearing! I felt very safe during my entire visit as there were zookeepers in every area mandating the proper way to wear masks and maintaining a maximum capacity of people in each area. They even directed foot traffic so that we did not walk too closely to other visitors! This is a great example of the zoo’s overall attention to detail. 

Although zoos can bring great joy and an interest in wildlife to children and adults alike, we must acknowledge that these animals truly belong in the wild. Some of the ways I felt that the Woodland Park Zoo could improve are listed below.

Certain animals seemed lonely

While some animals seemed to be in great company, others gave off a sad and lonely vibe. Specifically, the orangutan seemed to be very lethargic and melancholy in its indoor, cement area of the habitat. This made me wonder about whether this animal was getting the attention and company it needed to be happy.

I also wondered this about the jaguar, which was alone, and the wolves, which had just a handful of mates. Are these animals being given the community they might have in the wild? Do they need this community? Why or why not?  

Seemingly small habitats

It is common knowledge that captivated animals are not living in the same environment as they would be in the wild. While Woodland Park makes a clear effort to mimic the animals’ natural habitats, it is still unsettling to me that the amount of space each animal is roaming is significantly more cramped than the vast and endless land they’d have in the wild. My suggestion here would be to feature less animals, in order to provide larger habitats; the density of the zoo is much less important than the well-being of wildlife. 

Small info on reasons for captivity

Finally, I’d love to know WHY these beautiful creatures need to be in captivity, and whether or not there are benefits to this. More informative activism in this area would encourage others to visit Woodland Park Zoo and reduce the stigma/association with zoos that do not meet any sort of moral standard. 


Love them or hate them, zoos are a part of this world! While I do not condone the act of profiting off of the captivity of wild animals, I do appreciate the way zoos are able to create a connection between humans and wildlife. I have hope that zoos can shift their focus onto conservation efforts, and that we will all one day perceive wild animals as more than just a spectacle behind glass. 

Hello! I am a student at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in Visual Arts and English Literature. This year I will be serving as a co-Campus Correspondent as well as the Director of Art and Design at HC SPU chapter. I am originally from the Olympic Peninsula area of Washington. Some of my hobbies include hiking, collaging, reading, and writing.
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