I recently spent a lot of time thinking about the question of “should animals be kept in Zoos?” I was prompted to ponder this topical debate subject after discussing Izmir zoo with a few friends. These friends stated strongly that they would not accompany me on the two hour journey to Izmir, because they viewed zoos as cruel establishments that had no place on the face of the earth.
However the truth is there are many zoos around the world that are both a touristic and local attraction. Marketed as a family day out, it is a chance for people to see animals that they will never ever see again in their life time. Naming a few animals, it is safe to say that ferocious lions, cute cuddly bears, a lazy hippopotamus and a cheeky monkey all combine to form one of the most controversial subjects that exist today.
Should Animals Be Kept in Zoos? : Case Study
Previously, I could never answer this question fully as I have never walked the path that led me to enter a zoo. However, despite a lack of enthusiasm from my friends, I decided to visit Izmir Zoo on my own and therefore gain a true understanding of what my stance on the subject would be.
The first aspect to note about Izmir Zoo is that it goes to great lengths to be known as a wildlife park. This stance blends in with the revamp that the zoo had in 2008 following severe criticism of the conditions that animals had been kept in since the zoo opened in 1936. Previous reports stated that animals were kept in cramped conditions, were dirty and their health was not considered a priority. The new wildlife park focuses on large amounts of space for the animals as well as top quality care and attention to their needs.
Well, there is no better proof than living proof and while at Izmir zoo, I spent a lot of time trying to analyze each animal that I came across. You might be laughing now wondering how a small town girl can call herself an expert on animal behavior however I just went with my gut feeling, watching their behavior, trying to make eye contact and analyzing any reactions to human contact.
The smaller animals seemed to fare quite well. Swans, chipmunks, ducks, tortoises and goats were happily going about their business ignoring the traffic passing by.
The larger animals seemed to go quietly about their business but the animal that caught my attention was the adult elephant that seemed to be pacing up and down out of boredom. This is understandable because even though the park has given the elephants massive amounts of green space to themselves, in the wild they are used to hundreds and hundreds of miles that become their domain. The equivalent would be like placing a human under house arrest.
The more dangerous animals like lions and tigers are also given their own large enclosures and people can view them from behind a glass screen. Their focus on that day was on keeping out of the sun by lying under shady trees and Izmir zoo is very much backing the stance that if you do not get to see an animal then you should return at a different time. They are not forcing the animals into any ridiculous side shows involving party tricks and silly costumes.
Animals aside, the park does give a lot of information to visitors about the animal that they are seeing and two days within a week are dedicated to educational tours for children. This is to describe the traits, natural habitat and eating routines of an animal. It is quite plain to see that the park aims to keep its animals in the best conditions possible however this does not distract from the moral and ethically question of “Should animals should be kept in Zoos?”
The Benefits of Keeping Animals in Zoos
- There are more chances of endangered species surviving due to no natural threat
- Scientists can study diseases that kill species and invent cures
- In a world, where nature and lands are being destroyed it gives the animals a safe haven
- People can see animals that they will probably never see again in their life time
- It is a great way to educate children that we are not the only inhabitants of the planet
Should Animals be Kept in Zoos? – The Cons
- Larger species can feel confined about the lack of space
- It enforces the belief that animals do not have rights
- There is the chance that some Zoos will not place the animal’s well-being before profit.
- Some species do not adapt as well to captivity as other species.
- Studying an animal in captivity is not the same as studying them in their natural environment.
My Conclusion about Zoo Animals
I really do believe that this question cannot be answered with YES or NO. For every positive reason to keep animals in zoos there is a negative reason and vice versa.
In the case of Izmir zoo, there is also the question of the baby elephant called Izmir. She was born into captivity and any suggestion to release her into the wild would probably result in her death due to a lack of life skills.
There will always be two camps when it comes to zoos. The people that believe Zoos are good for science, nature and to gain an understanding of the creatures that we share our planet with. Then there are those who believe zoos should be banned and animals should be released.
In my experience, Izmir zoo is caring for the wild life in the best way possible and I saw no signs of cruelty. For the sake of science, education and a better understanding of the creatures that stand on this planet with me, I have to place myself in the camp that says “Yes, animals should be kept in zoos”
What do you think?