Advantages & Disadvantages of Keeping Animals in the Zoo

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Zoos bring wildlife right to your own backyard.
Zoos bring wildlife right to your own backyard. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Zoos provide people with the opportunity to peer into the wild without actually traveling to distant locations around the world, searching for rare or exotic animals. Zoos contain a range of animals, depending on the size; some contain large animals, such as giraffes, elephants and lions, and even large and venomous snakes.

Advantage: Education

One of the central advantages -- at least in terms of human advantages -- lies in the education that people receive when visiting a zoo. They receive firsthand knowledge of how animals behave and act. Most zoos also provide interactive shows with some of the animals during specific times throughout the week. Surrounding the exhibits, zoos usually have information describing the animal, its history and natural location. Learning about animals also brings empathy to many people, raising awareness about their endangerment in the wild, which can often be attributed to human causes.

Advantage: Breeding

Zoos often take an active approach in helping animal populations. For dwindling species, many zoos breed captive species in an attempt to increase the numbers. After raising sufficient numbers of the populations, the animals can then be released into the wild in an attempt to encourage population growth. Many animals have been tremendously helped this way, including famous zoo residents such as the white tiger and panda bear.

Disadvantage: Captivity

The downside to keeping animals in a zoo is the captivity they face. No matter how nice the zoo is, room is limited for zoo animals, which can be especially troublesome for large animals that are prone to roaming. Taking animals out of their habitat serves as an ethical issue because of its focus on human benefit as opposed to animal benefit, with the exceptions of captive breeding and freeing animals from an otherwise dangerous situation.

Disadvantage: Upkeep Issues

Keeping animals in a zoo in most circumstances and within most countries is acceptable because of the respect given to the animals and their environment; however, not all zoos are created equal. Although most zoos are built as nice abodes, others lacking proper maintenance can create poor living conditions for animals. These zoos’ poor upkeep can encourage disease and poor animal health.

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