IMO Zoos may have been a good thing at one time but today they are just ridiculous.

There has been some controversy lately about keeping an elephant named Lucy in an Edmonton zoo. Edmonton gets a fair bit of snow in the winter and the videos I’ve seen show Lucy walking around in the snow.

Edmonton is a city in the north of Canada and Lucy is probably the northernmost elephant in all the world.

I think it’s a pretty awful thing to do to keep an adult female elephant all by herself without the company of any other elephants. After all, elephants live in herds. They are not supposed to live solitary lives.

But there is a much larger question and a more important one. That is about zoos in general.

Maybe they were a good thing when they were first created some one or two hundred years ago. But are they a good thing today? In my opinion, they are not a good thing. As a matter of fact, they are just bloody awful and the same goes for these SeaLand places that keep Orcas and other mamals in terrible conditions.

I asked myself the question, “What is the value of zoos”? One value is that people can learn more about animals by seeing them up close than they can by watching videos. But how much more can they learn? That advantage is offset by the fact that animals in a zoo do not behave much like they do in the wild. So how accurate a picture do people get of these animals by seeing them in a zoo?

Another question I asked is, “Who benefits from zoos”? The owners and workers clearly have a vested interest in keeping them going and if you look into some of the news stories, it is unbelievable the lengths to which these people will go to keep their zoos open.

But the animals are essentially imprisoned and restricted from living the kinds of lives they would live in the wild. Anyone I know who has ever spent any time in prison (even as little as one day) say the one thing they took away from their prison experience is that they would never again visit a zoo and any time they could do something to help close down zoos, they would do it for sure.

What about you? Do you think zoos are a good thing and we should support them? Or are they part of the 19th century mentality that figured slavery was an important economic value?

I can’t equate zoos with human slavery. But I sure do think zoos should be phased out from our modern world. In my opinion, they just stink.
Here are a couple of links concerning Lucy. There are plenty more. Just Google “lucy edmonton elephant”

I reommend a surprisingly interesting book called"A Peaceable kingdom: a year in the life of America’s oldest zoo

The book tells the stories of all the weird and wonderful people who work at a zoo*, and also talks about the bureaucracy and financial side of the business.At one point, the management was looking for ways to increase attendence,so they surveyed the visitors and asked them why they have come to the zoo that day.
The answer surprised me: very few people said they were coming to look at the animals. The most common explanation was that they were simply looking for a pleasant place to go so they could spend a few hours with the children.
*hint: animal lovers are a bit different than you and me. Especially the ones who like caring for the rhinos and hippos.

I couldn’t disagree more with the OP. Aside from the educational role that zoos serve to the community, many modern zoos play an essential part in the conservation of endangered species. The California condor, which at one point in the 1980s had been reduced to 22 living specimens, was saved from extinction via the efforts of the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos and now numbers 435, with that number gradually increasing.

I could go on all day citing examples like that, but the point is that the exhibition of rare animals to spectators is really only a small part of what modern zoos do.

People who like going to zoos would be hurt if zoos shut down. The Association of Zoos and aquariums estimates that attendance at zoos is 175 million per year. That is alot of people who would be hurt if zoos closed down.
Animals at the zoo are protected from predators and given plenty of food to eat. If I was an animal would I rather be out in the wild running from predators and scrounging for food, or in an enclosure safe and with a full belly? I have no idea and neither does anyone else, since it is impossible to understand the mental state of animals and what makes them happy.
Closing zoos would hurt tens of millions of people while possibly helping or possibly hurting the animals involved.

The old fashioned zoos that were just cages set on concrete were and are terrible places. Modern zoos that give the animals much more room to roam and a more natural setting are much better. There are some species that might disappear entirely without zoos, if poachers would otherwise exterminate them, the species is far better off surviving in captivity.

I’ve visited the San Diego zoo a few months ago and had some similar thoughts.

One hundred or even 50 years ago, going to a zoo must have been a magical experience. People could see real live animals up close that most of them had only read about or seen in pictures. However, in my opinion, the idea that zoos are a place that people can go to see animals has eroded. Not erased, but definitely reduced due to two reasons:

  1. Availability of other sources of watching animals.

Today people can see exotic animals for 24 hours a day on Animal planet. Not just see them, but see them up close and interacting in their natural habitat. Or just type “elephant” into YouTube. You could probably watch elephants up close, in hi-def for 24 hours a day until you die.

  1. Type of zoo enclosures.

Zoos of yesteryear had enclosures that maximized viewing pleasure for its visitors. Animals were closer, and there was less to obstruct their views. The only problem is that this is not necessarily what is best for the animals. Many enclosures in modern zoos today have tried to be more kind to the animals and let them be in more natural enclosures that help their physical and social needs. Do not get me wrong, THIS IS GOOD for the animals. The only problem is that this is not necessarily good for zoo patrons and animal watchers.

Example to bring my points home: When I visited the SD zoo, it had been the first time I had been to a zoo in a long time. I had high expectations. As I walked, walked, and walked, I have to admit that I was kind of disappointed. I go to the lion exhibit. They are 40 feet a way, up on a ledge, sleeping. All I can see a bit of mane sticking out and flicking in the wind.

I go to the tigers. Are there tigers in here? Oh wait, someone says they spotted one. Where? Oh… way over there, I think i see a tail sticking out from some bushes.

For at least half of the exhibits, I really struggled to even find the animals I was supposedly viewing. Once found, the view is quite disappointing. I thought to myself, “Dang, I feel like going home and watching some REAL animals on YouTube!”

I can only imagine what it would have been like to manhandle several young children hyped up to see animals and to have encountered these scenarios.

Conclusion: Are there good reasons for zoos? Absolutely! Many of the other posters have listed benefits of zoos. But their ability to display animals to the excited public (what many people consider to be their primary mission) is decreasing.

I like going to the San Diego Zoo in order to get drunk and hang around the pandas. I’d be bummed if I couldn’t do that anymore.

Really? Everyone you know who has been incarcerated says the one thing they took away from it was a desire to close down zoos?

Did you ask, “Really”?

All right, but apart from being economic engines, community assets, providing science education, saving endangered species, and offering wildlife rehabilitation what have the zoos ever done for us?

Well … I think it is a balancing act. One that has a lot of problematic parts.

I think they are critical in the preservation and cultivation of endangered species and habitats. I think zoos, the good zoos, do a ton of good work in this area, and in education in general.

In a perfect world as designed by me, we would have zoos that would only have animals that are a fit for an artificial habitat. Philosophically, I’m sure that some people genuinely believe that ALL animals need to be in their natural habitat … but in my world, there’s a difference between putting an elephant in Canada and putting a bunch of newts in a giant state-of-the-art climate controlled swamp tank. I just don’t feel the newts mind as much.

But I definitely feel for the zoos who must maintain income based on people who probably want to see more than newts. And it’s those big ticket animals with a big “wow!” factor that many people expect to see. Perhaps this is something that people could be educated out of.

Our local zoo is the Bronx Zoo, and I feel it has a lot of “attractions” that don’t involve real live animals. In some ways, I’m a little :rolleyes: about that initially – it’s a zoo, not an amusement park … but maybe if they were done with a more intentional plan to create a “nature education experience” this could take the place of the sad elephants. I would still not want it to become a animal-themed amusement park, though … there is something I like about zoo areas being less in your face than a thrill park. Maybe more like a Public Garden with some appropriate animals … which is pretty much how zoos in the U.S started off, although without the “appropriate” part.

Modern zoos are just fine; it the way circus animals are treated that bothers me.

I don’t think there’s a substitute for the real thing when trying to excite people about conservation and build an emotional attachment to the animals. My kids were far more excited to see real live lions at the zoo than they ever were to watch TV or Youtube and see a lion. Yeah, sometimes it’s a disappointment to look in an exhibit and see a tail behind a rock but that’s the trade-off for not sticking them in a bare cage with a tire and a rope.

Chicago’s zoos made the difficult decision a few years ago to move their remaining elephants to other, warmer, zoos. They had a string of deaths over a few years between the two zoos and finally just gave up. I’m sure part of that was the bad press from having the elephants die but they still had to balance that against saying “Sorry kids, no elephants here. You like warthogs? We got warthogs…” Why the sudden deaths after so many years (and other African animals like rhinos and hippos doing fine) I think is still something of a mystery.

Probably not, Edinburgh is further north than Edmonton.

I think it depends on the zoo and the type of animal. Some animals I think are too large to be held in captivity, such as orcas. They’re nearly the size of a school bus and are used to swimming hundreds of miles a day. Being held in a little pool and being made to do tricks can’t be fun. I think some animals such as the great apes have too much self awareness to be held in zoos without it being cruel. I may have been projecting, but when I went to the Washington, DC Zoo many of the apes were sitting motionless with their hands over their faces as if they were sad or ashamed.

I think zoos need to be closely monitored to ensure that the animals are not being abused and even though it may disappoint some patrons, they may need to limit the scope of animals they have as some creatures are not fit for captivity.

I love animals and do want to see them treated cruelly, but it’s my impression that zoos have made big progress towards treating the animals well in recent years.

What puzzles me is why animal rights activists would focus on zoos and circuses. If we’re upset about animals not being allowed to live in the wild, surely many animals being raised for meat or eggs are treated worse, and there are vastly larger numbers of them.

The first time I took my kids to a circus, my daughter asked about the protestors. I explained their point of view, along with the fact that I generally agreed with them. We continued the discussion as the show began, then left about 15 minutes in, although my son was disappointed.

Prior to our next trip to the zoo, I presented both sides to her ahead of time. Conservation won out that day.

A quick google shows that Sweden has 2 zoos with elephants, including the Kolmården Djurpark - about 350 miles further north than Edmonton. Churchill Manitoba would be a fairer comparison.

Many animal rights activists focus on factory farming and that is why many people choose to be vegetarian or vegan.

Yes. I’m utterly surprised that every single person you know who has been incarcerated, assuming you’re talking about more than one or two, said the only thing it impressed on them was a need to shut down zoos.