For some reason, zoos have remained a popular attraction for families, even though we live in the 21st century, and we have all the data about how zoos harm the animals kept in them. Zoos are trying to convince the public that what they do is beneficial for the species, which are offered an escape from the dangerous wild, but the opposite is true. The many dark secrets of zoos are a reason why these institutions should not exist in a well informed and modern society. Read about some shocking revelations!
Animals, as we all know, tend to exude quite strong smells. But non-domesticated animals even more so. In fact, penguins are among the worst smelling species out there, and you might have to deal with that reality when entering a zoo on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. It’s not the fault of any of the animals, but more of the zoos which horde so many species in one place, but the smell is zoos can sometimes be downright appalling.
The circadian rhythm of animals, much like humans, is vitally important for their survival and health. If messed with, it can lead to serious trouble. But this is something which zoos seem to take for granted on a massive scale. Artificially adjusting the sleep cycles of the captive animals, zoos are trying to make them awake for longer, in order to entertain visitors. Not a practice that should be condoned by anyone!
Confining animals to a tight space, without access to their natural habitat and freedom of movement has devastating effects on their psychology. So much have the zoo kept animals from living their full and happy lives in open space, that a new term has emerged to describe what is happening to them behind the bars of zoos- zoochosis. This means that they experience severe psychological distress, and even though some zoos are trying their best to remedy this, it seems like an impossible task.
The problem with zoo licensing is much more prevalent than you would think. Even though there are pretty strict rules in place when it comes to keeping animals, many organizations are only licensed as animal exhibitors by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which is much stricter. This often leads to maltreatment of many animals that can not be protected under the right law.
It should be no surprise that happy and free animals live longer. Because the animals in zoos live in captivity, they are deprived of their natural habitat, and their natural urges and lifestyles. This often leads to much shorter life spans, even though the wild does pose more predatory threats. Wildlife should always be left alone in the wild, where it belongs, rather than kept in cages, where it doesn’t.
Zoos are designed to entertain people through showcasing animals in captivity. This makes zoos entertainment centers at the expense of wild creatures, and it is a fact more people should realize. Even though some zoos do try to take responsibility for the animals’ wellbeing and happiness, no efforts can match the animals’ need for the wild spaces which they were taken from.
Obesity seems to not only be a human problem. Animals suffer from it too, and particularly in zoos. The fact that animals don’t have to hunt for their food, and rely on their skills, or seasons, for nutrition, means that their metabolism gets used to consistent feeding, which leads to obesity in some species. Elephants have been going so obese in the past decade, that their reproductive systems are shutting down. Not a good sign at all!
Speaking of obesity, it is not just the unnatural feeding cycles that turn animals into fatter versions of themselves. It's also the unhealthy food provided for them. Zoos can very rarely mimic exactly the food which animals would eat in the wild, and even if they try, they can never get it as fresh, as lean, and as chemical and hormone-free as nature would provide it.
Continuing with the problems which unhealthy feeding habits cause, zoo animals are also victims of a lot of dental issues that they would simply never get in the wild. Their teeth begin to rot, and they get cavities, all because of the sugar-heavy, and industrially farmed food they are fed. The wild nature offers much less sweet, and much less genetically modified food items, making dental issues almost nonexistent among wildlife.
You might imagine how inbreeding can cause a whole lot of problems. Animals in captivity are especially affected by this, as their mating options aren’t that varied, which often leads to inbred offspring who have much less of a chance of surviving. This is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed urgently in order to prevent the extinction of some animals and continue their healthy evolution.
Animals are creatures of habit, and they get attached to their families and friends much more than we would ever think. Zoos, however, disregard this reality altogether, moving and transferring animals from zoo to zoo all the time. This can have bad effects on the psychology of the animals, and many of them have had to suffer some serious sadness after being separated.
In their natural habitat, meat-eating animals hunt. That is what their biology has given them a predisposition them for, which is why putting them in a highly restricted space like the zoo, can have devastating effects on their natural predator instincts. Zookeepers are trying to mimic the animal’s usual day-to-day activities by staging fake hunts, featuring cardboard or boomer balls, and we can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t make the situation even worse.
Animals in zoos escape more than you would ever imagine. One of the most famous zoo escape artists was arguably Ken Allen, an orangutan who orchestrated so many escapes from his cage, that he was nicknamed Houdini. However, he always returned back to his captivity after having a stroll, showing us just how much some animals have been made to believe zoos are their natural homes.
The practice of transferring animals from one zoo to another is quite common, but this also means that certain diseases can spread across distant regions fast. For this reason, zoos keep new animals in forced quarantine for months, just to make sure no animals are potentially infected. This means the incoming animal has to spend all that time in solitude, something which you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.
Some zoos operate under the pretenses that they are doing conservation efforts, helping endangered animals get stronger in captivity before releasing them back to the wild. Although this can sometimes work in very specific cases, it should be used as a last resort. Animals that have once been kept in captivity are rarely able to pick up their hunting or survival instincts again, and it can put them at even greater danger.
There is a lot we now know about the operations run behind the scenes in zoos, and it is our responsibility to stand up to the maltreatment of animals in captivity. Not condoning organizations that present animals purely for human entertainment is the first, and easiest, step any of us can do in order to help move forward with wildlife reforms.