Should Animals be Kept in Zoos? A Perspective Based on The ZooKeeper (our newest personalized tale!)
In the past decade there has been an increasing outcry against zoos and the conditions of animals that live in them. Many animal rights activists have reiterated time again that zoos have a detrimental effect on animals and their well-being. Even though some arguments exist that zoos are not all bad - or at least that not all zoos are bad - there still is an overwhelming consensus that animals should not be kept in zoos.
Our latest book, The ZooKeeper illustrates exactly this by taking your kids on an Ocean’s 11-style heist to free Dandylion, who is being held captive in a zoo by the ZooKeeper.
In this blog, we’re taking a look at the top reasons animals should not be kept in zoos, based on the arguments made in The ZooKeeper book!
In most zoos, animals are kept in enclosures that look and feel nothing like their natural habitat. Moreover, since people come to the zoo to actually see the animals on ‘display’, the enclosures are sometimes made smaller than they really should be. If the enclosures are too big, the animals are not always visible to the visiting public, and people are usually unhappy when they don’t get ‘their money’s worth’.
Animals are often removed from their natural habitats
In The ZooKeeper, Dandylion is just going for a morning stroll, minding his own business when the ZooKeeper shoots him with a dart gun, captures Dandy and puts him in a cage. Like Dandy, some animals are removed from their natural habitat to be taken to zoos, which is particularly cruel as animals born in the wild cannot adapt easily to enclosed environments, however big they may be. This happens less now, because of increased efforts towards conservation and enforcement of animal rights laws. However, animals are still captured for zoos and other animal trade, especially in countries where animal protection laws are not as strongly enforced.
Animals in zoos are sometimes neglected, and their enclosures are not cleaned out as often as they should be, which leads to extremely unhygienic conditions that end up with the animal getting sick, and sometimes even dying.
In the ZooKeeper, after Dandy gets locked in a cage, he worries about how he’s going to keep his hair and his clothes clean. There are, of course, many zoos that do a good job of keeping animal enclosures and the animals themselves clean, and provide stimulating play environments for animals to thrive. However, the fact remains that there are still zoos that do not have the resources to look after the animals as they should.
A lot of zoos and aquariums have shows where they train animals like birds, dolphins, seals, elephants and other animals to do tricks with balls, or hoops and other props. The ZooKeepers’ plans for Dandy are ominous at best - he plans for Dandy to perform singing tricks for the people all day long, so he can profit from the shows. Dandy’s apparent fate is the same as many animals that are in zoos. They’re trained to perform for people.
These kinds of shows are purely for the entertainment of people and definitely exploit the animals, often making the animals perform actions that they are ill equipped to do or downright dangerous.
Zoos are usually for-profit institutions
Most zoos are usually for-profit institutions, which makes the bottom-line their biggest concern. That’s not to say that for-profit organizations can’t run clean, and good zoos (and some do), but at the end of the day, it's still a business. Moreover, the money that is made does not necessarily benefit the animals directly or indirectly.
More zoos need to be more actively engaged in the conservation of animals in the wild. Currently, only about 1% of most zoo’s budgets go to conservation. Most zookeepers even agree that they haven’t been able to do enough for the animals that are the very reason for their existence!
In the ZooKeeper, the Manimals recognize the Zoo as one of the most dreadful places a Manimal could end up in - and it's hard not to wonder if animals actually might feel that way. After all, humans don’t particularly like cages either.
But...not all zoos are all bad!
Having said all that, zoos do have some redeeming features. They do help provide education and awareness to people not just about animals, but also about ecosystems, wildlife and conservation in general. A lot of zoos have outreach programs with schools and colleges that support education. Even in The ZooKeeper, your child meets Dandy whilst on a school trip.
For a lot of people, their first encounter with big animals probably first happens at a zoo. Zoos also help save endangered species by caring for them and giving them a safe home. Additionally, zoos also have breeding programs for endangered species.
Conclusion: A world without zoos would be a better place
Even though zoos do have some benefits, there is still an overwhelming amount of evidence that animals don’t tend to do well in captivity. In the ZooKeeper, ManTown simply closes down the zoo after all the animals escape, and turns it into a playground.
In the real world, zoos may be around a while longer, so the only thing we could do now is hold them more accountable, funnel in resources and make sure that they’re not as horrible as the one Dandylion was held captive in.
If you’d like to know more about how you can help, here are a few organizations that offer different ways to get involved.
Wild welfare works to improve animal welfare for all species held in zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries. There are many ways to get involved including raising funds, running challenges, donating or more.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s most effective animal protection organization. You can donate money, your vehicle, stocks or mutual funds, volunteer, or even sign their pledges to stop buying tickets to trained mammal shows and much more.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund protects animals through the legal system. They file high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm. You can donate, or join their actions by urging your local government officials to adopt laws and regulations that ALDF have filed in favor for.