Do zoos really conserve animals? We always hear that we should support zoos, for this reason. But actually, most children spend around 20 seconds looking at animals, which suggests entertainment over education. There are plenty of wonderful organisations abroad that are conserving animals in their natural habitats.
Animals here from exotic countries don’t fare well. Many live in hot or cold climates, so this is not their natural climate. And most go mad from boredom, exhibiting signs like pacing and head-bobbing. We have all heard of zoo animals attacking, often because they are trying to escape. Most bird cages are vertical, whereas wild birds fly horizontally (think of an eagle over a canyon).
What you may not know is that many animals in British zoos are shot and killed anyway, when they are over-bred. One pack of wolves that tried to escape were shot dead. The charities Freedom for Animals & Born Free want most zoos closed down, and campaign for better welfare for those already in them. Experts also say that reptile houses should be natural swamps.
At Seaworld, orcas (killer whales) have so little space, it’s like living in a bathtub for life. The water is so shallow, that many have sunburn. Some are masturbated to release semen for breeding (one in Europe beached itself, some believing it was a suicide attempt).
- Report concerns here or abroad at Born Free (visitors) or Freedom for Animals (whistleblowers). Both these sites have heaps of info on why zoos are not the best way to conserve endangered species.
- Responsible Travel has tips on avoiding products that harm endangered species, and how to be an animal-friendly traveller, including avoiding ‘tiger temples’ and ‘elephant sanctuaries’ that are often gloried zoos.
- Read tips for wildlife-friendly travel and vegan travellers.
- Read Elephant Journey, the true story of three elephants who made the journey from captivity to a new life at an elephant sanctuary.
- Most circus animals live in small spaces, transferred from town to town, often abroad (mostly supported by western tourists). Reindeer here also travel around to shopping centres to ‘meet the children’ at Christmas. But they need special care and diets, and many are terrified by bright lights and noise. You can report any you to see to the charities above, who will try to educate.
- Romania’s Bear Sanctuary rescues roadside bears and now has over 60 bears who live in the wild (yet protected). Since their wonderful work, there are hardly any roadside zoos: