How do animals live in zoos

Criticism of zoos

Titanic or Ark?

Wild animals are geared towards a life in freedom in their behavior and physique. According to animal rights activists, animals wither away in captivity. Signs of this are the so-called stereotypes, i.e. the same sequences of movements over and over again: for example, turning the head or running back and forth without stopping.

Such abnormalities are particularly common in bears and big cats. The majority of the zoo animals, so the allegation of the animal rights activists, feel disturbed by the masses of visitors and become aggressive. Some even killed their own kind, mutilated themselves, or exhibited other forms of behavioral disorders.

But not all zoos are the same. Of course there are zoos in which the animals are kept under the worst conditions - but there are also positive examples. Many zoos try to keep the animals as species-appropriate as possible.

Due to larger enclosures adapted to the needs of the animals, the keeping conditions have improved significantly in recent years.

In addition, attempts are made to keep the animals busy in various ways, for example by making it more difficult for them to get their food. Polar bears have to fetch chunks of meat from large ice cubes or chimpanzees their raisins from a hollowed-out tree trunk.

Penitentiary or breeding house?

In contrast to earlier times, zoological gardens can now also boast greater breeding successes. However, opponents of zoos argue that the animals born and raised in zoos cannot be compared with their counterparts living in the wild.

Hereditary diseases and other anomalies are often the result of the lack of genetic diversity caused by inbreeding.

However, this is contradicted by the fact that there are now global networks between zoos to exchange animals with one another. The zoos pay close attention to the pedigree of the animals in order to avoid inbreeding.

Because regardless of animal welfare, it is in the interests of the zoo operators to breed animals that are as healthy as possible. No visitor wants to see sick tigers, elephants or polar bears.

Not all zoo animals are created equal

The role of the zoo as a breeding station and conservation boarding house is being questioned by animal rights activists. Difficulties often arise when they are reintroduced into the wild: zoo animals are hardly able to survive in the wild because they have not learned how to assert themselves.

In addition, zoos could not make any contribution to species protection as long as the natural habitats were not protected at the same time. Some animal rights activists overlook the fact that many zoos do just that.

Reintroduction programs, international nature conservation programs and gamekeepers in the animals' home countries are supported by many large zoos. Because it is also clear to the zoo operators that the breeding and release of threatened animal species only makes sense if there is still a natural habitat for the animals in their home countries.

Together with nature conservationists, zoos can thus make a contribution to ensuring the survival of a species in the wild. For this reason, large nature conservation organizations such as the "World Wide Fund For Nature" (WWF) work together with zoos.

Amusement park and people's dumbing down?

Zoos have long been an important part of our culture. In addition to recreation and entertainment, they are now primarily intended to be used for education in order to familiarize visitors with both the animal world and the problems of species and nature conservation.

Animal rights activists criticize that zoos convey a completely wrong picture of nature. On the one hand, the captivity of animals is presented as completely unproblematic, on the other hand, the animals living in enclosures and cages are not real representatives of their wild counterparts.

In the zoo, as in the circus, there is a tendency to humanize the animals and have fun at their expense. While most visitors only go to the zoo once a year for a few hours, the animals would have to spend their lives behind bars and in a small space.

There will probably never be a perfect zoo, but as a rule zoological gardens make sure that their animals are kept as appropriate to their species as possible and keep improving their keeping.