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The Lure of the Zoo - Creatures in Captivity 📽

Visiting a zoo or wildlife park: a convenient way to view exotic wild animals without travelling across the world to see them in their natural habitat.

The origins of zoos goes back to the distant past. Around 1000 BC, King Solomon is widely regarded as the first zoo-keeper. Today, these attractions are extraordinarily popular with the general public, commonly found in the “top ten” places to visit in major cities, and generating an enormous amount of revenue. Yet, zoos are not without controversy; there’s a compelling argument put forth by experts that in many cases they are nothing more than prisons for animals.

African lions breed well in zoos - females might have to be given contraceptives as lions have adjusted to the easy life of captivity

For some animals their natural behaviour is only slightly affected by their confinement; they actually do well in a zoo environment. For example, lions are largely sedentary animals. They sit or lay around much of the day, only moving to procure a meal. If possible they scavenge a dead carcass or steal another predator’s food rather than catch their own.

Polar bears on the other hand are not suitable to be kept in the confines of a zoo. They are arctic wanderers. In zoo life they show abnormal behaviour like strange, repetitive head and neck movements, continuous pacing up and down and chewing objects such as plastic bowls - all symptoms of stress.

Yearning for freedom: polar bears rarely thrive in zoos making strange neurotic movements

Many species including some of the larger animals like rhinos and giraffes settle down well at safari parks, where they have space to roam almost freely. The bigger problem is boredom, particularly for primates in captivity. Zoos have tried to overcome these problems by presenting the more intelligent monkeys and apes with problem-solving challenges and tasks to complete.

Prowling tiger. Tigers pace up and down almost automatically, their feet falling in exactly the same place each time they cross the enclosure.

However, the way animals are being forced to live in unnatural conditions has raised concerns about their well-being in the restriction of zoos. Most animals confined in zoos are not endangered nor are they being prepared for release into natural habitats. The fact is that it is almost impossible to release captive-bred animals - including threatened species like elephants, polar bears, gorillas, tigers and chimpanzees into the wild.

Jane Goodall, the famous British primatologist and one of the most important experts of chimpanzees in the world, has defended the role of zoos in helping us understand and preserve the life of wild animals.

In contrary, organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Animal Aid and Born Free have initiated campaigns for the closure of zoos, arguing that many zoos deprive animals from their most basic needs - that animal abuse and suffering should not be a source of entertainment.

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Jane Goodall on “Role Zoos Play in Saving Wild Animals”

Out of the best and also largest - with widespread acres of land - “Top 10 Zoos of the World” the Berlin Zoological Garden (Tiergarten) in Germany ranks No. 1 (

There are undoubtedly many advantages, but they all too often come at the suffering -- to various degrees -- of captive animals. We must weigh up the ethical case carefully.


Dear Reader, tell us your opinion on this the “comments” or email us.

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Animals in Zoos - Pros and Cons

Zoos are often depicted as a terrible place for animals to live, but is there any truth to this?


Reader’s Digest Publication “Intelligence in Animals”, 1995 (viewed 23.06.2018)

Netivist, 2018 (viewed 25.06.2018)


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