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article imagePhoto Essay: Can zoos be humane and survive? Special

By Elizabeth Parker     Aug 23, 2013 in Environment
A debate rages in the modern world on the humanity of caging animals, asking intelligent sea life to perform for us and having circus animals perform for us. Is it inhumane? Is there a way to do it humanely?
I won't attempt to answer the questions I pose. I love going to the zoo and have loved it since I was a little girl. Now as an adult who occasionally has the opportunity to observe animals in the wild through my pursuits I have to ask if those animals look content.
The Giant Panda is a favorite zoo animal and it is felt zoos are justified as the panda numbers dwindled in the extreme in the 70's. Unfortunately, only about 40% of these bears will breed naturally in captivity.
Through the glass a panda lays in a zoo enclosure while people look through at the Panda.
Through the glass a panda lays in a zoo enclosure while people look through at the Panda.
At one time the Panda was a poster child for both animal conservation and the need for zoos to preserve the genus, but is there a better way? Efforts by the WWF preserving the Panda in the wild have been far more successful than in zoos. Is this a better way to go?
Is this camel really happy to walk in circles all day with people on his back?
A camel used for a popular camel ride at a zoo.  Is he happy walking in circles all day?
A camel used for a popular camel ride at a zoo. Is he happy walking in circles all day?
When I look at the photos of caged animals I go visit in zoos and then see the available video and photos of the same animals in the wild I have to question the wisdom and validity of keeping them caged. There must be a better way. I prefer to view animals in sanctuaries or similar where the animals have room to roam in a more natural environment. Should this be a prerequisite, no more cages and room to roam?
Three kangaroos laze around in the shade in their pen at a zoo.
Three kangaroos laze around in the shade in their pen at a zoo.
Is it ever fair and is the educational value worth having animals caged? The birds, lizards, monkeys, gorillas, elephants, and kangaroos, what would they say if they could choose? I'm pretty sure if they had a voice they would choose freedom and hunting over a prepared food meal put in their feeding pen each night.
An orangutan holding a security blanket while people view him through the glass enclosure walls at a...
An orangutan holding a security blanket while people view him through the glass enclosure walls at a city zoo.
Because the penguins in my photo line up to head in just before the zoo closes and even before they are called, does this mean they like it? What do they do in the wild, maybe they don't need to line up to go in for food and a nights sleep as they choose when to do it all day.
Penguins at the zoo voluntarily leave their water exhibit and begin forming a line up at the big doo...
Penguins at the zoo voluntarily leave their water exhibit and begin forming a line up at the big doors to head in for the night 10 minutes before the zoo closes for the night and before any trainer comes to call them.
Things I find cute and funny at the zoo on a second thought are so wholly unnatural. The gorilla cradling her baby, but behind the bars I can't get my camera around to see through.
A gorilla sits in the shade cradling her toddler behind a cage at the zoo.  Should intelligent anima...
A gorilla sits in the shade cradling her toddler behind a cage at the zoo. Should intelligent animals be on display?
It's all food for thought. Whales, dolphins, seals, elephants in small circular enclosures, gorillas in cages, monkeys of every kind behind glass enclosures. How do we end it now that it is so ingrained in our society as a normal thing to do?
A white lions rests in it s zoo enclosure  photographed through the glass enclosure set up as a safe...
A white lions rests in it's zoo enclosure, photographed through the glass enclosure set up as a safe viewing area.
Should beautiful lions be viewed through glass and fences at the local zoo, or should they be left where they can roam and instead viewed from afar or on video? Would a natural and wild area be better though still enclosed, like at the African Lion Safari in Ontario? Natural habitat game reserves where one can go on safari tours seem a good answer, what do you think?
Check out the debate at debate.org. The animal rights argument is debated and presented in many places, but there doesn't seem to be a good answer when the good answer is not something we all want to hear. Many believe our zoos and aquariums serve a good purpose so struggle for reasons to keep them.
More about Zoo, Captive, Captivity, Humane, Animals
 
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