Should animals be kept in zoos or aquaria?

Should animals be kept in zoos or aquaria?

Keeping animals in zoos and aquariums dates back in 1963 when the first zoo the in Paris, France. The main purposes of zoos were to educate science and natural history of animals and todayhave are used for entertainment, education and even scientific research. So far there are about 3000 animal exhibitors held in the US, and they include zoos, petting farms, marine mammal parks and circuses among others. Out of these, less than 10% are approved by Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) which sets high standards of care to animals held in zoos and aquariums in the world. Every animal exhibitor is considered a zoo regardless of whether they abide by AZA standards or not. Though to all animal activists love animals, some respect them because they believe they have the right to live in conducive habitants in the world while zoos that meet best standards present a challenge to advocates who love animals because they get an opportunity to interact and see animals. This paper is going to present various arguments on holding animals in zoos and aquariums by considering varying opinions and then conclude with a perspective that is most justifiable.

Arguments against zoos and aquariums

People who have visited ad worked in zoos usually bring disturbing facts about how zoos are managed and operated and how animals are treated. Considering not all zoos are good, it is no doubt that not all animals are kept perfectly as much as many advocates of animals wish. There are other challenges faced by animals whenever they are extracted from their natural habitats.


Removing animals from their right places. Countless animal civilisation form their rightful places and this separates them from their families. When they are captured, they become bored and lonely, and many are said to suffer ‘zoochosis’ which is a condition for such separation and newness. The condition has been a common phenomenon in zoos such that those animal opportunity to drugs that alter their moods, for example, Prozac.Some animals tend to make every move to free themselves. An example is a gorilla named Jabari which tried to escape from the Dallas Zoo by jumping off the enclosed wall, but zoos necessary in a fatal situation. Animals can fail to thrive in modern habitats which are characterised by unnatural whether, small enclosures, and disturbances like flushing camera as people take their photos and even throwing things on them by kids to play with them. They may suffer the mental problem and risk their lives when trying to free themselves.

Some known marine mammals like Shamu, Tilikum and Lolita, were taken away from their ocean homes and now live in tanks others been taken ways since they were babies like Lolita which has existed in Miami aquarium for almost half a century (Campbell, 2013). Whales and dolphins are usually confined in tanks that are around 24 feet in length and width and about 6 feet deep. In oceans, they navigate freely on sonar waves which are not reverted by wall obstacles. The reverberations of their soner waves in tanks drive some dolphins insane. Jacques Cousteaus who was a French undersea explorer once said that for a dolphin held in captivity, its life, “leads to a confusion of the entire sensory apparatus, which in turn causes in such a sensitive creature a derangement of mental balance and behaviour” ( Hediger, 2013).When dolphins and orcas are captured, they are forced into learning tricks, and when they refuse to perform them, their trainers say they withhold food and isolate them as two common and most effective training methods. These trainers agree that training is like a psychological torture. Separating them from their families and further torturing them psychologically is some of the tough adaptations they have to face in their initial stages.

Problems when interacting with viewers. As zoos aim at profiting from these, any form of cruelty during the interaction process is less likely to be considered or even noticed. Animals kept in parks are usually troubled by children who play with them by throwing things in the zoo and banging windows in their closures. When taking their photos, the flash of cameras on their faces is also another disturbing thing and such scenarios make zoos appear like animal prisons, and they have no choice but to adopt and live with the situation.

It is clear that animals kept in Zoos are sad and is never their wish neither do they like been kept in the artificial environments. The case is similar to programs allowing people to pet, kiss and even ride the dolphins. Such programs invade in already limited worlds of the animals, and they frustrate them, and they are also dangerous to the participants. Animals in petting pools can easily be infected with bacteria and pathogens because of frustration, anxiety and aggressiveness resulting from confinement. There is evidence of injured members of the public at Sea World Dolphin –petting pools in the process of interacting with them.

Arguments in favour of zoos and aquariums

Zoos present reality of nature and the modern zoos are much more than just collection of animals, and they are very important nowadays. Humans have the ability to plan and make conclusive decisions for our next generation. We are dominated by cultural and technological advancement which enable us only make the right decisions that adopt the changing world. More so, people who came up with the ideas of zoos, were experts and many people running and managing these zoos are experts who consider both all opinions and use their knowledge to make the best choices.

Animals were locked in cages since early civilization and were left to amuse man without considering their welfare and although some zoos have not fully met the required welfare standards of keeping animals in the zoos, zoos have changed over the last few decades since the Endangered Species Act of 1973 was enacted. Zoos now serve multiple responsibilities from education to conservation and research, and that makes zoos necessary especially with critical areas focusing on genetic diversity. Zoos are therefore necessary not only for their survival in future but also to provide a human-animal bond with all animal species.

Conservation. There are about 39 species that have been listed by IUCN which have extinct in the wild. These species would have completely been extinct was it not for many captive populations around the world and Zoos continue to set up ‘insurance’ populations for species whose survival is at risk in the wild? Animals in the zoos can be reintroduced into the wild if the original population is extinct. Probably there are about 60 species left in the world, but the best side is, currently there are about 200 species surviving in the zoos and aquariums. An example is over 160 programs where the Zoology of Society of London participates. The reality is, a good number of species exist in the world because they have been reintroduced from the zoos and aquarium and the wild population has been boosted by captivity of animals. Although there are few cases of successful reintroduction, the numbers are increasing and the fact that species can be reintroduced after extinct shows how valuable captive breeding is.

Education. It is hard to see many wild animals from pigeons to big species like lions and giraffes. Adults and children see these animals on television documentaries, and it seems very impressive watching them. A lot of natural histories are found in the museum, but one cannot compare the impression you get seeing an animal in the flesh, hearing it, smelling it and watching its real function and absorbing all that in details. That is very effective in bringing a better understanding of nature which enables appreciation and encourages greater efforts to conserve them. More is even encouraged with direct education through signs and talks. Many zoos also travel around the world communicating to conservation workers and also send keepers around the world to improve conditions and reintroduction programmes.

Research. Modern Zoos and aquariums provide a good ground for research on behaviour, reproduction, biological functioning, nutrition habits, animals health and genetics which is valuable to field researchers, wildlife managers and other scientists (Ballantyne, Roy, and Jan, 2016). An example is Saint Louis Zoo where scientist have been studying mother-infant bonding for 14 years. This has provided information on how often and when a species nurses, grooming and proximity, information that would be hard to get from other means.

Undertaking these kinds of research is helpful in providing an opportunity to study conservation measures. Mainly, research carried out in zoos and aquariums focus on understanding how zoos affect animals and how to minimise negative influences. Also, studies are carried out to determine how husbandry aspects can be improved. An example is how diets can be enhanced, identifying best medical care practises, determining how visitors affects the animals and also getting awareness of natural species. Zoos and aquariums are having a main purpose which is getting knowledge and benefiting the conservation of threated species. The National Aquarium has partnered with other organisations to conduct conservation research that understands and interprets the aquatic ecosystem who then advocate for ocean health.

Connecting to people. Most people love animals, and they visit the zoo to see them, and they love when they are safe, and so they do not think twice about participating in conservation measures they are educated about. Zoos know how devastating is when animals go extinct and they go to great lengths to reach to every individual who is caring. An example is the threat of extinct evidenced in invertebrate keepers in 2003 that brought ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ to Melbourne Zoo. These were male and female ‘lord Howe Island Stick Insects’ that were thought to have extinct for over 70 years but were fortunately discovered in Balls pyramid. To ensure that they survived, staff kept track of their health for weeks, and when Eve fell ill, she was provided with the best medical care until she was in full health again. She later laid 248 eggs and gave hope for the species.


There are bad zoos and good zoos, but there is room for improvement with aggressive efforts by responsible organisation to ensure zoos meet required standards all over the world. With time, all zoos will be provided with best environmental situations and best care. We can’t afford to get rid of zoos and aquarium especially for the reason of conserving wild animals and ensuring that they continue to exist with the changing environmental conditions caused by factors like global warming. Animals are special creatures and our connection to them is so fulfilling, and Zoos and Aquariums ensure that this connection exists and continues to grow. Bad zoo exhibits do to mean they are not worthwhile institutes, but it means we need to improve them and those who does not change be closed. The importance of zoos far much outweighs their shortcomings, and this shortcoming can be changed, unlike extinction which can only be prevented through zoos. Zoologist Bryan Beltram agreed that cages could be so depressing to animals, but animals can provide love, compassion and education to many. He said that zoos and aquariums are necessary just like paying taxes because they serve a purpose of preserving animals. Accordingly, he said they preserve animals by, “maintain viable captive stocks of animals as a safety net against extinction in the wild” (Hosey, Geoff, Vicky Melfi, and Sheila,2013). It is evident that zoos and aquariums have main aim of preserving and conserving animals more that the economic benefits and animals should continue been held in modern habitats.




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Role of Zoos and Aquariums: Implications for the Provision of Learning

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Hediger, H. (2013). Wild animals in captivity. Butterworth-Heinemann.

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