I have an extreme love/hate relationship with zoos and their existence. I love animals! There is no doubt about that. I love all animals (even snakes, though it has to be from a distance). Throughout our travels, I almost always make it a point to stop at a local zoo or wildlife center. I’ve even visited some farms and animal sanctuaries. I am a huge advocate of the preservation and conservation of all animals. Where does my struggle stem from then? Well, I don’t know how right it is to keep animals in captivity.
Conservation is something that exists because of humans. I don’t mean that we are the only species that puts forth the effort to help out other species. I mean that if it were not for mankind destroying habitats and sucking up every single resource that we can get our greedy little hands on, there would be no real need to put forth such an effort. Animal populations would pretty much keep each other in check. We poach creatures for their furs and bones, we wreck their homes to build our shopping malls and homes, we capture creatures for our own idle entertainment in circuses and parks, and we use them thoughtlessly in experiments. We are the enemy.
We aren’t all bad though. There are many people out there that rescue animals. Zoos and sanctuaries do research and have breeding programs to ensure that animals near extinction have a chance to repopulate. There are many kind-hearted folks that care enough to donate not just cash, but time and energy to help animals and restore their habitats. Rehabilitation centers are popping up all over the world for all kinds of creatures. Education centers are becoming more popular and wildlife tours are taking flight as well. Teaching people to care about the animals of today so that they will be there tomorrow.
My internal struggle though is that despite all these positives we are still keeping these animals in captivity. Yes, there are no poachers or predators in a zoo, but there is no way to tell if an animal is content or not. These creatures need room to roam.
It saddens me to tears to think of the life some animals live in captivity, however others can be quite happy. Heck, my dog is technically living a life in captivity and trust me, she is pretty happy, but she is also a domesticated breed, not a wild animal.
This guy may look happy, but would he be more content roaming the plains of Africa with some of his zebra buddies even with the threat of hunters and predators. Zoos give us the opportunity to see animals up close that most people would never get the chance to see in the wild. They educate us, not only about the adorable animals, but also about the plight they face in the wild. I can honestly say that seeing animals in zoos and sanctuaries has given me the understanding and respect that I have to never intentionally injure a living creature…but is that really worth it to that individual animal behind the glass?? :(
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