Zoos: A Wonderland for Humans or a Cage for Animals? – Danica, Grade 7

Zoos: A Wonderland for Humans or a Cage for Animals?

75% of animals in zoo and aquarium facilities associated with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) are abused. In fact, 1200 aquariums and zoos in 78 countries linked with WAZA have been found guilty of abusing animals. Going to a zoo or an aquarium is a popular activity and, according to a study by WAZA, 700 million people around the world visit these facilities each year to see animals up close. But what about the animals on the other side of the glass window? Zoos and aquariums should be closed for good. Not only do animals in zoos have significantly less amount of space than they would in the wild, but they are also forced to perform tricks for entertainment, and they mentally and physically suffer in these unnatural environments.

Zoos and aquariums should close because animals in these environments have significantly less amount of space than they would in the wild. In fact, tigers and lions have approximately 18,000 times less space in zoos than they would in their natural environments and polar bears have about 1 million times less space in zoos than they would in the wild. Especially for animals who roam large distances, wildlife exhibits provide spaces that are too small for the animals, resulting in their suffering. Some species in zoological gardens suffer from a disability to reproduce, bizarre and repetitive behaviours, and death at a young age. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), “researchers believe these animals suffer because they’re too confined to carry out their normal routines.” For example, polar bears, the species that suffers the most, usually spend 25% of their day pacing in these small enclosures, and clouded leopards pluck out their fur. Animals do not deserve to live this way, and they certainly do not belong in a cage.

Apart from animals having small amounts of space, circuses, zoos, and marine parks should close because animals are often forced to do tricks and unnatural acts in these menageries. Many animals in these exhibits are trained to do flips, jumps, spins, and other movements that do not come naturally. There have even been filmed videos of elephants being trained to lift their feet and head! These tricks may look exciting to the human eye, but behind the scene, some trainers use electric prods, bullhooks, tight collars, muzzles, and whips to make animals perform. According to an article titled “Circuses: No fun for Animals,” “to make some animals manageable, trainers may drug them or remove their teeth and claws, causing acute and chronic pain.” Seeing animals is often very enjoyable, but they have been abused or mistreated to put on a pleasing show! 

In wildlife exhibits, animals suffer from a variety of mental and psychological issues that cannot be seen through a glass window. Animals suffer from stereotypic behaviour, zoochosis, depression, and anxiety as a result of being held captive. Signs of stereotypic behaviour include repetitive pacing, swaying, bar-biting, excessive licking, over-grooming, and head-bobbing. According to an article written by Dr. Georgia Mason and Dr. Ros Clubb, “when lions develop pacing, they spend a lot of time in the behaviour (a median of 48%).” Animals also endure anxiety at manageries. This can occur for animals who are social and are forced to live in confinement and for animals that prefer to live by themselves and often have to live in contact with other animals. On top of this, as stated by Clare Parker Fischer and L Michael Romero, “exposure to humans can result in physiological stress.” Stress is sometimes a coping method used by animals to adapt to a new environment, but there may be permanent impacts if the stress response becomes chronic. This can result in “weight loss, immunosuppression, reproductive failure and psychological distress” (Michael Romero) for animals. Wildlife in zoos cannot go on living like this. The government should close zoos because the animals do not deserve to suffer like this.

If the government closes down zoos, aquariums, and other animal exhibits, animals will be saved from their suffering. Animals will not be confined, nor will they have to perform any more unnatural tricks. Humans share the Earth with animals, but humans are not seen locked up in cages for others’ entertainment, and neither should animals. They have lives, too.