The animal kingdom has always fascinated people; they have wanted to learn about their features and habits. This is the underlying reason for the establishment of zoos; places where animals are kept in enclosures or cages and are visited by the public. Zoos have been the first place for families to visit on a Sunday until recently when the tide turned: people are now much more concerned about animals’ welfare. As a result, whereas zoos were considered harmless entertainment in the past, they are seen as cruel and inhuman today. Public opinion is definitely right: zoos should be closed and more nature reserves should be established instead.
One of the major purposes of zoos is providing a learning experience. Since not everyone can go and see these animals in the wild, they can see them in zoos and get to know them. Undeniably, becoming more familiar with these animals raises awareness and this is a good thing: animal species can be preserved. Yet zoos are no longer the way to achieve this purpose: technology has developed allowing wonderful documentaries to be filmed bringing the African Savannah to our living rooms. Why put the animals in cages to learn about them when we can watch them on film? In fact, far more species have become household names thanks to David Attenborough’s fantastic wildlife documentaries.
A second major purpose of zoos is the preservation of species. As natural habitats dwindle, animals in the wild have more and more trouble surviving and zoos provide a home for them. Looking at the issue this way, makes one think that zoos are a humanitarian mission but they are not: they are prisons where huge animals like the big cats and great apes that wander over miles of forest during one day are confined to tiny cages. Animals have minds and can think; they have feelings and experience trauma. Do we have the right to torture different life forms just because they are not human? The answer is nature reserves like in Kenya and Namibia where animals roam freely over a wide area, are protected by rangers and visited by tourists.
The role that zoos used to fill can more successfully be filled by nature reserves and documentaries in the modern world. Animals have the right to live freely and happily just like we do. They have not been created for our own amusement. The world is a much better place with them wandering the forests.