The Zoos Debate

Opinions across the world differ about whether zoos should exist at all, with both groups – for and against, boasting a large following, and with both groups generally standing steadfast on their respective point of view. So should zoos exist or not?

The answer in one word is yes. For one thing, let it be understood that the vast majority of animal species living in zoos, certainly the predator species, just cannot be released back into the wild. They simply will not be able to survive because being zoo born or zoo bred, they will not be able to hunt down wild prey species.

Take a tiger in the wild. Using all its skills at tracking down prey, approaching it extremely stealthily to within striking distance and then making that rush to trap and overpower the prey, a wild tiger still only succeeds in one out of every six attempts on the average. A zoo born tiger on the other hand will not have these skills learned from infancy and the critical stalking will be so amateurish that the wild prey will escape every time. So a zoo tiger released in the wild will just starve to death. Or, having lost its fear of humans because of living in close proximity to humans in the zoo, the zoo tiger released in the wild will make its way to the nearest human settlement and kill domestic animals or humans, just to survive.

Thus if for no other reason, zoos must exist to house and care for the animals already in zoos and the animals that will be born in zoos. But there are at least 3 other important reasons that zoos should exist.

One: modern zoos are important research centers into different aspects of the lives of wild animals – behavior, breeding, diseases and physiology to name just a few. This research is of invaluable help to scientists and zoologists in preservation of the same species in the wild.

Two: modern zoos are education centers. By keeping different species in simulated natural habitat enclosures, these zoos act to create awareness in the visitors about wildlife and its habitat and the role of each species in the complex web of life on our planet. Thus zoos help in creating much greater understanding for wildlife and the need for its preservation.

Third: modern zoos provide an excellent opportunity for healthy recreation for the whole family. As the world gets increasingly urbanized, the exposure of city populations to nature is getting less and less. Zoos are thus islands of nature that provide relaxation, close exposure to a diverse variety of flora and fauna and a certain uplifting of the soul that only nature can provide.

But the existence of zoos must be conditional. A minimum level of standards must be maintained at all times, relating to overall zoo design, housing, diet, veterinary care, environmental and behavioral enrichment for all species kept on an ongoing basis and so on.

In our own country very sadly, no zoo comes anywhere near to these standards, and hence yes, these zoos should either be closed down or then given over to qualified others to operate.

One Response to The Zoos Debate

  1. Hunaid says:

    As someone who is married to a research scientist, I feel that they are critical to the research. The animal behavior is vital for the study of our own human behavior in many ways. Pakistan was lucky to have a caretaker like Zohare Ali Shariff for its Islamabad Zoo. Such folks do not abound for the obvious reasons and so I hope the govt will consider funding the universities in Pakistan to take care of the zoos – it would help research, economic development, education and tourism.

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