Behind The Scenes of Zoos

By Veronica

Zoos are a place where adults and children can interact with animals and scientists can learn about different species of animals. They keep several species in captivity and sometimes breed those animals. Zoos are also places where animals are taken from their families and homes to be displayed. Some people think that zoos are a great place to explore different kinds of animals, but they might not think about what happens to the animals. Other people think about how the animals are harmed, and choose not to support zoos. They do not want to support the abuse and tight confinement of wild animals. I think zoos should shut down because they are harming animals, making money off of animals that aren’t their property, and abusing animals.

First, zoos are problematic because they harm animals and are bad for animals’ health. Animal health in zoos is a serious issue; they are confined in small spaces and don’t eat a lot. An article by proves that, “Zoos claim to save wild animals, but wild animals in zoos are reduced to commodities and given inadequate habitats. Many animals in zoos are “charismatic megafauna,” such as lions and elephants, because they attract visitors. Charismatic megafauna are wild animals that interest humans, such as giraffes and tigers. Once cubs become adults they start to draw less attention and so the zoos kill them. That’s why zoos need to change and start caring for animals the way they should be taken care of. Even though cubs attract more people at zoos they are not treated any better. The humane society found two zoos where cubs were regularly abused. This occurred at Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia and Tiger Safari in Oklahoma. The cubs were punched and smacked to prevent them from playfully scratching or biting people. One cub was used for 30 photo sessions and five 30 minute play sessions in one day. Separated from their mothers, cubs are robbed of nutrition and regular feeding. Many baby animals suffer from trauma of being taken away from their mom in the wild. Baby chimpanzees especially have trauma from seeing their mom being shot right in front of them. Author and animal advocate Rob Laidlaw says, “Some animals can be upset just by people looking at them.” Animals welfare groups say the practice of roadside zoos are widespread and harmful. 75 roadside zoos have removed hundreds of cubs from their mothers to allow visitors to handle them. This interrupts the feeding cubs receive from their mothers and alters their behavior. Now cubs younger than 4 weeks old can not be removed from their mothers and handled by the public. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had decided that this violates the Animal Welfare Act, a law that protects animals. Zoos must make sure cubs are kept with their mothers and sheltered properly. In addition, the cubs may be handled with care by zoos workers only. 

Secondly, zoos make money off of animals that are not their property. These roadside zoos have made large amounts of money allowing people to feed and play with exotic cats. Zoos have allowed visitors to have pictures taken with tigers, lions, leopards and cheetahs. The humane society said visitors paid $50 for a photo session and $300 for a play session. At that rate, one cub could earn the zoo $65,000 over the course of a single summer. If zoos keep getting the money they get now then they will keep abusing animals. When you go to a zoo you are paying money to see something that already exists in the wild, locked up in a cage. It’s like paying money to go to a tree museum when you can already see them in the wild. Not only that, but the animals you see locked up are not healthy. They are healthiest in their natural habitat. Your money is better spent doing a safari where you can drive through the animals’ natural habitat, and your money is supporting true conservation efforts. The animals are healthy and in the wild. In the future, if zoos keep taking animals from the wild then zoos will have more and more power. They will overrule the laws that are keeping animals in the wild at all. Soon you will not be able to go on safari’ and see animals because zoos will have them. That’s what will happen if you keep spending money at zoos.

Lastly, zoos are not good for conservation although they claim to be. Many people believe that because zoos keep endangered animals in captivity and breed them there that they are helping conserve populations and protecting endangered species. Some zoos claim that breeding in captivity allows them to release animals into the wild successfully later. In an article by How Stuff Works, the author Jennifer Horton writes, “After 10 years of working to strengthen the population numbers of the endangered California Condor, a type of vulture, the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos were able to rebuild a population of fewer than two dozen birds to around 170 birds.” However, “About two-thirds of them were actually strong enough to survive in the wild.” According to the same article, in the last century, there have been 145 reintroduction programs, 16 of which actually were successful. Zoos also claim that the animal’s habitat in zoos have improved over the years. David Hancocks, a former zoos director, argues that the animals’ conditions in zoos are not getting better, and still need much more improvement. “Indeed, many captive animals exhibit signs of severe distress: People have witnessed elephants bobbing their heads, bears pacing back and forth and wild cats obsessively grooming themselves.” If you think conservation is good and you support it, then do not go to zoos. They are the opposite. Conservationists are trying to help animals and not keep them caged up, whereas zoos are caging up animals and taking them out of the wild.

Zoos are not beneficial to people or animals. There are three main reasons why zoos are bad. They are dangerous and harmful to animals’ health, they are profiting from animals every day, and they say that they are doing good for animals when they are just ruining conservation efforts and killing animals. That’s why you should stop supporting zoos and start supporting wildlife conservation organizations. When you want to see different species of animals in the wild you can look at National Wildlife Refuge System, and find a place near you to support the preservation of wildlife. You can volunteer and help them instead of just paying to see the animals. Animals can be exciting to see, but you want to make sure that these animals are being treated with respect and care instead of walking away and knowing that there being abused.



Horton, Jennifer. “Are zoos good or bad for animals?” How Stuff Works. 2021,

Milman, Oliver. “Young cubs: So, cute but you can no longer hold them.” Science. April 11, 2016,

National Wildlife Refuge System.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. May 5, 2021,

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “In the zoo or in the wild. it’s a tough life for the polar bear.” Science. March 5, 2016

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Copenhagen Zoo kills a giraffe, shocks many.” Science. February 25, 2014,

Rosenberger, Zoe. “Zoos Cause Animals Far More Harm Than Good.” Justice. June 9, 2019,