Advantages and disadvantages of living in zoos

i can see some of you looking mystified, so i will be kind and clarify matters. if ‘a’ = ‘animals’ and ‘z’ = ‘zoos’ (or zoological gardens for the fussy folk amongst you), then it is surely easier to realise that ‘e’ must equal ‘extinction’.

in other words, zoos are a necessary evil. if we as humans find ourselves wanting to see animals ‘in the flesh’, then surely we have two choices. either we go to them and visit/disturb the peace of their natural habitat, or we see them in the somewhat safer environment of a zoo. these animals very existence is thus both threatened and ensured by their enemy/friend ‘man’.

when i use the words ‘safer environment’ my meaning is twofold. safer for us as wild animals often reside in remote territory and some may not take kindly to humans invading that territory just to satisfy their urge to observe. also, safer for the animals, as it’s a cruel world out there and most animals have natural predators (other than yet including humans) that can greatly reduce the natural lifespan of a wild animal. no such risks exist in zoos.

there is a positive knock-on effect from zoos too. consider the amount of hard work that has gone into conserving wildlife in the last 10-20 years.

conservation costs money, big money. who provides the money? ordinary everyday people who have been to zoos and observed those same wild animals there. having seen for themselves how precious these animals are, having felt real emotion observing them, people can relate to the need to preserve the species and will give generously to ensure their future.

i wonder, had i never seen a tiger, would i find myself able to be truly concerned about the welfare of tigers as their natural habitat becomes eroded by man and by so-called ‘progress’? i would love to say I would but know in my heart the truth is I think not.

Zoos may not be a totally ideal environment for animals, hey, humans, many humans, are living in environments that are far from ideal too, let’s face it.

In zoos animals are assured of security, food and relative comfort. In some parts of Africa (and elsewhere) there are human beings starving to death. We need to get this into context.

Provided animals in zoos are given the care mentioned above, I can see no harm in them and in fact much good in them. Again, we need to realise that many, many human beings around this world would be grateful to take the place of those animals in captivity for those three things.

Zoos don’t pay massive wages to their staff. For most, working at a zoo is a vocation, their very love of animals is what motivates them to take a job with a non-commercial wage and few prospects. Their sheer love of the animals.

This brings another element to the equation. Love. Whilst love is predominantly a human emotion, there is surely no doubt that receipt of it nurture’s and enhances the cloistered environment of a zoo for its’ residents.

Whilst I can see that a zoo is not ‘natural’ and would once have felt guilty supporting them, I now realise that ‘natural’ is a relative word, which has metamorphosised over the years to be something very different to the early ‘nature’ experienced by animals, in remote areas once uninhabited by man.

Hence, nature itself no longer ensures the survival of, and can inhibit the development of certain species, including human beings.

I now have to consider the question, if zoos are a good thing, what can we do to make them the best they can be?

There are several ways. The animals in a zoo should always be considered esteemed guests and given the best treatment possible. They should never be treated as a mere commodity and any zoo that treats them as such should be closed down and the owner publicly executed. Oo-er, did I really just say that? Perhaps that last bit is going too far, but I meant the rest and if for ‘publicly executed’ we substitute the words ‘prosecuted’, well, I can live with that.

We should be prepared to pay a fairly high price to visit a zoo. After all, paying 10-25 pounds to do so might seem extortionate when we consider the cost of other forms of ‘entertainment’, but the animals welfare must come first and the cost of having no zoos would mean that we would have to spend thousands of pounds to go visit animals ‘in the wild’.

That should help us get things in proportion, if we have to save up hard for the privilege of seeing wild animals in a zoo, then we will learn to accept that seeing them at all is indeed that, a privilege, not a right.

If zoos are thus able to have a good income then they would have no excuses for not giving their inhabitants the very best of care, the best that money can buy.

We, in turn, would be able to enjoy guiltless visits to zoo’s, maybe not as often as we would like, but safe in the knowledge that when we do visit a zoo, we will be making our own personal contribution to the protection of wild animals and the future of their species.

I know this idea might be controversial, if it were taken up it would make it a very rare treat indeed for me to go to a zoo myself, yet I think it is worth it.