Wild Animals/Animals In Zoos


Hi Jonathon!

I have to do a debate and my topic is: This House would ban zoos, except I am on opposition so I am saying that we should NOT ban zoos. I am having a hard time finding reasons that we shouldn't ban them. So here is my question: Why should we not ban zoos? Do they improve the animals quality of life? How? Is the life expectancy longer in zoos? And how can we stop animal cruelty? abuse that takes place is zoos.

Thanks so much!

Dear Bethany

Thank you for your questions. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites and articles I used. Please note that many of the opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily conform with those of other people interested in zoos. For example, opinions of people on Zoochat (http://www.zoochat.com/) are very variable, ranging from people who like to see lots of obscure animals in zoos to those who would prefer to have larger populations of some species at the expense of others. Please note that there are good and bad zoos and that some good zoos have bad exhibits, but different people vary in their opinion of what is good or bad.

Tim Brown, Chairman of the Independent Zoo Enthusiasts Society, has written an interesting article in the Summer 2013 edition of 'Zoo Grapevine'. "We believe that zoos represent a frontlie in the fight for the preservation of endangered species and perhaps more so by virtue of engaging urban populations than by breeding rare animals."

Zoos have saved several species from becoming extinct. These include the Arabian oryx, black-footed ferret, European bison, Mauritius kestrel, Californian condor, echo parakeet and Hawaiian goose. Animals bred at zoos have been released into the wild. If zoos did not exist, those animals could have become extinct. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/28/science/zoos-bitter-choice-to-save-some-specie includes a video indicating the work zoos do to save species, but also indicates that they are making choices about what to save.

http://animal.discovery.com/animal-facts/zoos-good-or-bad1.htm give some advantages of zoos. Many animal species tend to live longer in zoos than in the wild (see http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/environment/nature_and_biodiversity/l2806). This is because they often lack predators and can be treated when they are ill. Zoos can hand rear baby animals if the mother is incapable of doing this. Those babies would have a risk of early death in the wild.

Some animals do not adapt well to captivity and good zoos have realised this. Many zoos no longer keep dolphins, elephants and polar bears if these animals cannot be kept in suitable conditions. http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/environment/nature_and_biodiversity/l2806 gives details about regulations in European zoos. Good zoos should not be cruel to their animals and if you see any cruelty, you should report it.

Visiting a good zoo can make people more interested in animals and may lead to studying about animals, conservation and other related topics. Good zoos promote conservation. I visited Shepreth Wildlife Park a few years ago and this had several displays about conservation, including animals that were not in the collection. While there are many good television programmes etc, this is not the same as seeing and hearing live animals in a naturalised enclosure. Many information about animals has been derived with studying animals in zoos and applying this knowledge to the same, or related, species in the wild. Studying zoo animals is relatively cheap, while studying animals in the wild can be very expensive and sometimes the researchers never find the animals they wanted to study.

Many opponents of zoos say that people can see exotic animals in the wild, but many people cannot afford this. Also, there is no guarantee that they would see certain animals. I spent an afternoon in a rainforest near Andasibe in Madagascar and I don't remember seeing any wild animals over the course of a few hours, although I did see some animals when they were pointed out to the me in the reserve opposite. There is a myth that animals could be released from zoos, but many of these animals couldn't survive. I would prefer a situation where zoos kept more animals in conditions where they would show natural behaviour and would be able to survive in the wild. This would entail keeping more small animals, rather than the large species that many visitors expect to see. For example, London Zoo has bred and released many crickets into wild habitats in Britain (http://www.zsl.org/about-us/media/press-releases/355,355,PR.html).

If zoos were banned, many of the animals would be killed and I very much doubt if the space occupied by the zoo would be used to protect wildlife. Some wild animals adapt well to zoos (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxErhI3Wx6w) and I suspect the resultant land would be built on.

I would therefore advise you to concentrate on the following assets of zoos:
1. Conserving endangered species
2. Interesting people in nature
3. Developing knowledge in animals
4. Providing a green space for people and other animals

Good luck with your debate.


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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