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Keeping Animals in the Zoos

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Can you imagine that you are forced to live in a cage for your lifetime? What would it be? Are you willing to live this kind of life? Animals preservation is a popular issue nowadays. As human consciousness of every kind of rights gradually increases, people start to consider animal rights as well. Many people think that keeping animals, especially those who are facing the problem of extinction, in zoos can give them better care and living environment. However, on the contrary, many studies show that trapping animals in zoos will not bring better consequences; instead, the animals may feel more upset because they are taken away from their familiar habitat and are separated from their family. Thus, is keeping animals in zoos the most ethical way for human beings to protect our lovely animals? Is it really good for the animals to be trapped in spaces that are much smaller than their native environment? As human beings care more and more about animal rights, it is definite that we have to view animals more than just “things”, but rather “valuable lives” just as human beings. As a result, people should not deprive their freedom by locking them in zoos; the presence of zoos is unnecessary.

First and foremost, there are very few animals being protected in zoos although many people claim that zoos are transferring into a new type of system to make efforts on protecting for Outside magazine, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums reported that there are only 30 species are being worked with for recovery within 228 zoos. To be more detailed, these 30 species are difficult to re-introduced into the wild (Zimmerman, 2015). It clearly turns out fact that the effect of “conserving” animals in zoos is poor. Not only the proportion of protecting near-extinct animals is small, but the effect of it is also worse than we imagine. In this case, the necessity of zoos is doubtful. Is the existence of zoos essential? Or zoos are only for human’s selfish hearts to get entertainment? Furthermore, the regulations of protecting animals in zoos are unsound. Do these laws really constraint zoos to fulfill their responsibilities? As Lori Marino, Gay Bradshaw, and Randy Malamud (2009) written in their article, The Captivity Industry, although there are regulations to ask zoos to follow, it provides only unenforceable recommendations for the treatment of animals. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is like an “umbrella” that protects the “zoos and aquariums” but not the “animals” (Marino, Bradshaw, & Malamud, 2009). In other words, these regulations are just like a choice for bosses of zoos. It will not be a threaten for them if they choose not to follow it, which truly increases people’s doubt of animal rights in zoos. Consequently, since zoos do not truly make great efforts on preserving endangered animals, and the regulations cannot enforce zoos to follow, why do people have to expect zoos can bring a better life for wild animals?

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Second, animals living in zoos have to face a serious problem of lack of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is an important part of animals’ evolution. If there are any accidents or environmental changes, genetic diversity among animals makes them easier to adapt to novel environmental changes. It is quite necessary for animals especially those being kept in zoos to restoring. By rights, those animals will be sent back into the wild someday in the future; therefore, the issue of genetic diversity among captive animals seems more significant because they will have to live with their conspecifics in the wild one day. According to Dale Jamieson (2002), the infant mortality rate among inbred animals is many times than it among non-inbred animals. What is worse is that zoo curators have not put their concerns on it because adequate breeding and health records have not been kept (Jamieson, 2002). In this situation, it makes people doubt again that if zoos are really preserving endangered species or not when they do not even take this minimal step. What’s more, just as what is mentioned above, the animals may be very different from their conspecifics in the wild under the environment of inbred breeding. This should make people think about the problem of what is the zoos actually doing to preserve endangered animals. In addition, since the captive animals are almost different from wild individuals, the adaptation of the wild, which is completely different from zoos, may be very hard for them. Therefore, there is a question worth thinking about for us: Is it really better to confine a few hapless species in zoos than to permit them to become extinct? If they can no longer adapt to the dangerous environment of the wild, then what is the need for their reconstruction? Once again, people have to reflect on their own. Do they keep zoos for those lovely animals, or do they just want to amuse themselves?

Those who support the operation of zoos claim that zoos do really educate people. First, the opponents state that a zoo is like a living classroom, and it promotes education, especially among children. It is a wonderful opportunity for people who live in cities that may never see a wild animal in their lifetime to see those precious creatures with their own eyes as well. Second, although students learn the knowledge of animals in the classrooms, it will never be better than really seeing a living creature in the flesh. It cannot be denied that having a close interaction with wild animals may bring a greater understanding and more complete perspective of them to visitors. Nonetheless, the educational resources brought by zoos are very limited. According to Madison Montgomery (2014), a survey shows that after over 2,800 children guided and unguided visits to the London Zoo, 62 percent of them showed no indication of learning new facts about animals or environmental conservation (Montgomery, 2014). This research obviously points out the truth that most visitors, especially children, go to zoos for entertainment. The educational effects of zoos are not only limited but also unnecessary. In addition, there are still many ways for people to get information and knowledge of the natural world; instead of visiting them in imprisoned cages. As a result, zoos do not educate or empower children. People should be aware that visiting zoos that close those animals in cages immorally to gain knowledge is never a clever choice.

In brief, zoos should be abolished for sure. No matter the zoos are established for conservation or amusement, they all do the same harm to wild species—captivity. To recall the first question above, can you imagine that you are forced to live in a cage for your lifetime? The value of freedom should not only be considered and cherished in human rights. Animals are valuable creatures of our great Earth as well. Humans should not and do not have the permission and the power to take their rights of freedom away. Moreover, living in such confined areas compared with their vast natural habitat also makes animals upset. It is not surprising because no individuals will feel excited about being separated from their familiar home and being imprisoned in a cage for the rest of their life. According to Philip Hoare (2017), he said that “As we become habituated to our unnatural environments, it is more important than ever that we should consider the rights of other species whose fates we hold in our hands” (Hoare, 2017). Since humans see themselves as the dominator of the earth now, the influence of human decisions on nature becomes more and more considerable. Above all, the answer to whether zoos have to be banned is obviously YES. Zoos will not bring more benefits for wild animals; instead, the damage that comes with them is much more severe. 

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