So today I went to Randers Tropical Zoo (that’s in Denmark for those of you who don’t know). Now, I have always had a huge inner conflict with the idea of zoos. I believe animals should be in the wild where they belong and not in enclosed spaces for us to gawk at. And then I get there and it’s all:
I know. The lack of willpower when it comes to my own opinions just because I see a furry animal is quite pathetic. To be fair, most animals in this zoo not only had ample space but actually had free reign out among the visitors on the property. And everything seemed really clean and above board. We got to feed the sea cows and all the food seemed more fresh that what I feed myself!
So I’m going to essentially put together a list of pros and cons for zoos and hopefully have a concrete opinion by the end of this post.
You get to see animals you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to
It is fair to say that if all of these animals were in their natural habitats, the vast majority of us would never get to lay our eyes on such beautiful creatures. Travelling to parts of the world to see these animals is not possible for some people; maybe they don’t have enough money, can’t afford the time off work, have children too young for travelling or have mobility issues. In this way, zoos are great because you can just pop down the road or in my case the next town over and there you have it, Asia, Africa and South America all in one place! But that’s a pro for us.
Endangered species are protected
There are lots of species now that are endangered and close to extinction. This is essentially the fault of humans, let’s face it. We take our resources from what is the homes of many animals or their food and they dwindle. Not to mention hunting and poaching have played their part in the past and sadly present. So having a protected place to live is a pro. They are looked after, at least in every zoo or aqarium I’ve been to. Today I have seen some of the rarest snakes in the world and without the zoos they may have been wiped from the planet already.
Let’s take a look at the cons. I haven’t written any yet but there seem to be a lot floating around in my mind…
No matter how much space we offer animals in zoos, it’s nothing compared to what they would have in the wild. Monkeys have whole jungles and rainforests to explore in the wild. Today I saw them in what was admittedly a huge dome, but still nothing compared to what they should have. Reptiles and spiders especially are kept in very small temperature-controlled containers with glass walls for us to look through. Not exactly natural. Definitely a con.
My problem here is that the animals become so used to people, that they change and come very domesticated, especially with the zookeepers. After their mentality has changed so much, are they even the same animal we actually came to see? We want to see animals found in the wild when we go to zoos, but these no longer are those animals.
Let’s face it, the majority of animals in zoos are not actually endangered or in need of much protection (they’ve evolved to protect themselves). And I do in fact realise that zoos cost a lot of money to run, but they are still a money-making business so we are using the animals for financial gain. Many zoos, including the one I visited today, have some sort of show where a zookeeper uses a few animals and tricks it’s taught them to entertain the audience. The actual training itself is unnatural for the animals and this daily routine of playing tricks for people is unethical to me.
The EU breeding program
Everyone in the world probably knows about Marius the giraffe. The breeding program he was part of has almost 400 participating zoos, including both zoos in my home country, Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park. I have a HUGE issue with this program. I get the whole variety in genetics thing; we have to mix up the gene pool for the best specimens to keep the species going etc. If you have an animal that is no longer suitable for breeding, DO NOT KILL IT! Lots may not agree with me, but this is something I strongly believe. Neutering the animal as you would a dog is still more natural than a bullet to the head, if that’s what you have to do to keep it from breeding. Or here’s an idea; separate pens! There are lots of ways to keep the integrity of the breeding program and not kill any animals. Marius for instance was less than two years old at the time of his death I believe; much too young to justify euthanisation.
Gawkers are annoying
Pretty sure no one goes to a zoo and doesn’t take a million pictures. I did, but with the flash off at least. But there was a section for nocturnal animals where my phone camera wasn’t picking up the light well at all so I turned on the flash:
I could tell immediately that I had annoyed the animals in there. I’d be annoyed too if I was sleeping, had light sensitive eyes and someone shone a super bright light right at me. While this was obviously a stupid mistake on my part, I did notice after that there were no signs saying not to use your camera flash in the area. I’ve only seen one in my entire life, at an aquarium in Galway on a squid tank. I think they’re pretty necessary for the wellbeing of the animals to be honest.
It’s late and I am very tired after the day so those are the only pros and cons I can think of right now. I think I have pretty much come to the conclusion that I definitely do not agree with the concept of zoos and very highly doubt I’ll visit one again. However, I am human and not perfect. I have to admit I had a lot of fun today at the zoo. I got so excited at the sight of almost every animal there, I’m surprised my boyfriend is still my boyfriend, I was so embarrassing (and let’s not discuss how I was at the gift shop. Oh Lordie!). So my conclusion is I don’t like the idea of zoos and what they do for animals, and I think the cons outweigh the pros, no matter how much I enjoyed past visits to the zoo.
If you have any more pros or cons I haven’t thought of, leave them in the comments below!