Because Animals live in the Zoo.
. . .
Z is for Animals.
Because Animals live in the Zoo.
from Q is for Duck
written by Mary Elting
illustrated by Jack Kent
(accessed on YouTube 8/13/22)
When I was growing up, we were not allowed to have a pet with fur, so the only animals I saw close up were red-eared sliders (those little turtles we bought at the dime store with our allowance) and goldfish that we got the same way. I don’t remember any of my friends having pets.
When I got older, I babysat for a family with a really, really big dog. But, he was a dog nevertheless. A few years later, a different family had a cat, and surprise of all surprises! Mom let us adopt him for our own when the dad found out he was allergic to cats. Princey was the first of many cats my family shared our home with. But that’s it. Cats, turtles, and goldfish.
At school, we studied about wild animals, jungle animals, and animals that lived in the sea. I grew up close enough to the Cleveland Zoo (now the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo) that we’d go there on field trips. I used to love to go to the zoo. The animals were exotic and exciting. Majestic elephants picked up peanuts with their finger-like trunk tips. Two-story-tall giraffes grazed gracefully on tree-tops. Lions, and tigers, and bears (oh! my!) were especially scary, but in those days they lived in cages behind strong bars. And the monkeys played like they had not a care in the world. They romped up one side and down the other of the mountain in their enclosure, Monkey Island, and were surrounded by playful seals who would sometimes balance a ball on the end of their snouts.
The gorillas and other big apes were a different story.
Proponents of zoos have strong arguments. Zoo research is important to many aspects of science. The most common area of research focuses on learning about animal welfare and habits. Other studies consider habitat conservation, especially for animals being readied for return to a natural environment. Ecology research addresses species-specific conservation problems and the preservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity. Scientists study how animals interact with their environment, with each other, and with the humans who care for them.
Many diseases can pass directly from animals to humans. In 1999, when crows at the Bronx Zoo in New York were dying of a suspected outbreak of encephalitis, a scientist at the zoo discovered the cause was really an emerging disease, West Nile Virus. A vaccine was developed for horses, where the infection can be fatal. There is no human vaccine, but if contracted, symptoms are almost always mild.
Zoos can save species from extinction. ProCon.org, owned by the Britannica Group, lists Corroboree frogs, eastern bongos, regent honeyeaters (a critically endangered Australian bird), Panamanian golden frogs, Bellinger River snapping turtles, golden lion tamarins, and Amur leopards, among others, that have been saved from extinction by zoos. Zoos can help animals in danger from climate change and habitat loss. In 1960, Przewalski’s horses were declared extinct in the wild. Only 12 lived in zoos. Through a cooperative breeding program, several zoos have worked together to increase the number to 2,400 horses and in 1992, 16 were released into the wild. Now 800 are living wild.
We humans understand best what we experience. Watching animal shows on TV, even PBS documentaries, do not get us close enough to ignite our sensibilities. A 2014 study has shown that people who have visited a zoo, though, know more about biodiversity and increase their actions to protect particular animals, habitats, or nature in general. People tend to protect what they love. Visiting animals where they live is a good way to learn about them.
An Eastern Black Rhino was born in the Cleveland Zoo this year. Last year an orangutan, a gorilla, and a koala were born, and in 2019, a baby giraffe. All are doing well. All over the country and all over the world, endangered animals are born in zoos. I want to believe that all are well taken care of.
Every year more people visit zoos than attend games of the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB combined. But the same ProCon article presents a stirring argument against zoos. A different study claims no significant difference in knowledge-gain or individual charitable contributions, so zoos are necessary.
Furthermore, it’s said that zoos contribute to poor health and early death of elephants, and gorillas, and an increase of infant mortality has been documented in polar bears. (ProCon.org)
Animals in zoos can suffer psychologically, too. According to the same article, many leopards are clinically depressed. Bears exhibit symptoms of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and giraffes have been diagnosed with anxiety. Chimpanzees can develop abnormal behaviors that could be caused by mental health issues.
So taken all together, a deep study of the source articles for these summary facts is necessary. (The source notes are appended in the ProCon article I reference.)
I want to believe that zoos are good places for people to learn about all kinds of animals, that animals are studied kindly, and important learning encourages people to donate time and resources for saving so many animals from extinction. More information is available than I can digest.
I think I know how I feel about zoos. Then I see the gorilla baby and find his mom. I gaze into her eyes, and I’m sure she knows so much more than she can say.
-—Be curious! (and kind)