Advantages and Disadvantages of Zoos



The zoo makes for an excellent place to take the family for a full day of fun, adventure, and education.


Inside the typical zoo, you can enjoy witnessing animals that normally would only be seen on television or inside picture books.


The zoo, or “zoological garden,” is made up of animals that are held in captivity.


Now, that may seen cruel, however, arguably so, zoos fulfill a variety of necessity: Educational, recreational, research, and animal conservation.


“Zoo culture,” if you will, hails from the early Egyptian, Chinese and Mesopotamian civilizations.


In this article, when we refer to “zoo,” we include urban-type caged zoos, to safari parks, and also to animal sanctuaries.



Should animals be kept in captivity?


It’s a question that has long been debated.


Here, we address a variety of the advantages and disadvantages of current-day zoos.





Advantages of Zoos


1  Educational resource

Modern-day zoos play a vital role in the education of children in particular.



2  Protection for endangered animal species

With a rise in animal poaching over the prior 50 years, many animal species are now endangered.


Zoos help to tackle problems associated with endangered species by providing a safe haven, through educating, and through animal breeding programs.



3  Community economic resource

Zoos provide jobs, they create opportunities for tourism, and can even be the centerpiece for an entire community’s economic program.



4  A place of refuge and sanctuary

Zookeepers are, at least in more developed countries, highly educated, very well trained individuals.


They gain a specialized knowledge with regards to animal upkeep, health and wellbeing.



5  Natural instinct

In bygone times, zoos were mainly about enclosures, a couple of toys, and this was seen as “cutting edge.”


These days, physical, dietary, and wellbeing requirements are understood and catered to far more.


While in no way can all animals be perfectly catered to inside a zoo setting: hunting and migrational activities are almost impossible to emulate, there’s no longer the same level of animal degradation and deterioration.



6  Zoo inspection and accreditation

Zoos in developed countries must meet with stringent criteria in order to remain operational.


Frequent inspections take place, inclusive of humane and proper care and suitability and cleanliness of habitat.


Should a zoo fail to meet any pre-established criteria, there’s loss of accreditation and the zoo will likely be closed down.



7  Reduced levels of extinction

Around the world, zoos work closely together as a way of preserving endangered animal species.


Among the animals that have likely been saved from extinction because of these programs include Przewalski’s horse, Golden Lion tamarin, Arabian oryx, Puerto Rican parrot, Amur leopard, blue-eyed black lemur, and many more.



8  Veterinary care

Many zoos try hard to ensure that the animals under their care are extremely healthy.


Entire treatment teams are established – veterinarians, zookeepers, technicians, pathologists, among a variety of other animal healthcare specialists. 


Standard care includes parasite removal, quarantine procedures and individualized care plans. 



9  University meets zoo

Universities often team together with local zoos in order to generate in-depth degree and post-graduate research programs.


For example, The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washintong DC  provides many programs at postgraduate and doctorate levels. 


Smithsonian’s National Zoo offers a training program which is open to fourth-year veterinarian students. They, likewise, cater to a three-year residency program whereby veterinarians are able to graduate to become zoological medicine specialists. 






Disadvantages of Zoos


1  Questionable ethic

While the educational value of zoos is not in question, keeping animals within captivity conjures something of an ethical dilemma. 


There are, of course, many animals that are happy to remain within a captive setting. 


There are others such as the orca (killer whale) that, in general, does poorly. In the wild, orcas can live for 100 years. On average, in captivity, orcas live no longer than 30 years. 



2  People will always be more important than wild animals

Regardless that many zookeepers and staff employed by zoos don’t see it this way, zoos are, in the main, seen as recreational facilities. 


People will never be killed for killing animals; animals, on the other hand, will always be slaughtered for killing or hurting people, irrespective of where the fault lies.


Animals are often persecuted due to their natural instincts.



3  Breeding programs and dependency

While wild animals generally don’t take to confined environments too kindly, many are able to successfully make the transition to live out what appears to be a relatively happy existence. 


For predatorial species, the majority of newborns are never going to thrive in their natural setting within the wild. Rather, due to their learned dependency, that dependency will rarely, if ever, dissipate. 



4  Alterations in behavior

Zoo captivity can extend a lifetime. But at what cost in terms of natural animal behavioral patterns?


Take elephants, for example.


Elephants are migratory in nature. 


Restrictions placed on the migratory instinct causes an elephant to behave in a far more aggressive manner. 


The same can be said with respect to predatory animals. In turn, visitors and particularly zoo employees are put at risk. 



5  The financial struggle

Many zoos face a financial plight. 


As an example of this, in 2015, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, while it was, and still is, regarded as among the top zoos in the entire country, struggled financially. 


Nevertheless, due to their 501c3 status, they continue to survive, and even to thrive. 


Notwithstanding, zoos that do not have anything like the status of Woodland Park Zoo will not gain the same protection should their expenses continually outweigh their profit margins. 



6  Animal conservation and preservation is the goal, but…

For the most part, animals held in zoos in developed nations are done so for a variety of positive reasons, not least of which being their conservation and preservation. 


This is not always the case, however. 


Oftentimes, conservation and preservation of wild animals is little other than a marketing technique. Money talks louder than almost anything else, after all. 



7  Do zoo enclosures serve the requirements of animals adequately?

In developed countries where resources are available, among the many goals that zoos share is to replicate, as much as possible, the natural environment of each animal. 


For some animals, again, the elephant being a good example, due to size restrictions, it’s an impossible task to accomplish.


The best bet in this case is a sizable safari park. But, even then, elephants are unable to group together in the numbers they naturally do so in the wild. 



8  Species survival and breeding programs

As an example, the giant panda reflects just how problematic breeding programs are, or can be, when undertaken in captivity. 


Up to and throughout the 1990s, a mere 30 percent of giant pandas held in captivity were successful at breeding. 


While many cubs were, in fact, born, over 60 percent of them perished in infancy. 


Since then, success has been achieved and more than 70 percent of giant pandas held in captivity are successful at breeding. 


All the same, this success rate is brought about through artificial insemination and improvements in husbandry techniques. 


Essentially, this means that all newborn panda cubs will remain reliant on human intervention possibly for their entire lifespan. 



9  High-quality treatment programs are sometimes not enough

There are times when captive animals do not take to their new environments. 


As an example, at the Alaska Zoo, the famed Maggie the Elephant was frequently forced to remain indoors due to the harsh climactic conditions. 


As such, she failed to get the exercise required to keep her in good health.


Irrespective of what was tried, Maggie’s health suffered to the point where she was unable to walk properly. 





While a zoo may seem like an ideal place to maintain a relatively high quality of life for animals that otherwise would perhaps perish, there is another side to that argument.


For many people, a scenario that involves enforced enclosure of any type is entirely unethical. Wild animals are not here for human entertainment and they should remain in the wild, their natural habitat.