Zoos are something most everyone is familiar with. From excursions with friends and family to dates with someone special, the zoo is good for any occasion. Very rarely, unfortunately, do (most) people go to actually learn about animals. And that’s the problem. Areas established to spread information and understanding have become exotic temples of spectacle.
Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with zoos. At its essence, a zoo is a place that promotes learning, not just for the zoologists/staff, but also for the public’s sake. The idea is that by finding out about the natural world, zoo visitors are hopefully encouraged to become more aware and conscientious. Plus, the spreading of information is always good, and if it concerns biology, it is always best experienced in person.
Endangered animals are given second chances, as well as are injured/sick and even “exiled” or displaced animals. Zoos are where animals are supposed to go in order for research to be done and help to be given. Animals should be the focus.
If anything, zoos cater to humans. Granted, humans are still animals, but they are the wrong ones. Look around any zoo, aside from the exhibits, food stands, gift shops, rides, playgrounds, movie screens and amphitheaters: they’re bonafide amusement parks! Do you really need all that to admire animals? Seems a tad excessive to me. Takes away from even having animals. At that point, are they even really necessary?
One zoo in particular, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, of which I am quite fond, used to have poignant displays within exhibits. Like the mirror in what was the “reptile niche” that read, “the most dangerous animal on the planet,” as you looked at yourself. Now they rely upon the novelty of “water’s edge” (which is cool), but with a little too much focus on the “wow” factor.
Animals are expected to entertain us when we visit zoos. That’s why we get upset when the lions are lazy. But what kind of concessions are legitimate zoologists willing to make? In the end, what separates most zoos from gross and exploitative circuses, except for slightly better living conditions? I get that animals can be entertaining, but watch Air Bud or some other animal-based film. They can go toe-to-toe with some of Hollywood’s finest. But zoos aren’t for showmanship and spectacle. If one wishes to see animals be majestic, then watch Planet Earth or visit them in their natural habitats or in sanctuaries. People can’t deny they go to zoos to be entertained. There’s a reason why the solely informational exhibits are the least visited, it’s because they’re not perceived as “fun.”
Having animals in captivity can be genuinely beneficial for all parties involved, but only when approached appropriately. Ill intentions foster an atmosphere/environment that takes the animal for granted. We cannot compromise an animal’s wellbeing for our entertainment.