By the year 2050 scientists predict that one-quarter of Earth’s animal species will become extinct. Species are rapidly losing their habitats due to the growth of the human population. This is happening both in the rainforests of South America and even in Britain. Housing development and agricultural growth put pressure on our own native species. Perhaps one of the main reasons for the existence of zoos is to preserve and protect the animals, which are endangered by such human development. Another purpose they serve is to make it possible for people to learn about these animals by making you able to see them in conditions, which are as close as possible to the natural ones without having to travel the world. The question we have to consider is do zoos really achieve these goals?
A zoo is a place where you can see all the animals that you wouldn’t see in everyday life, with a very small risk of being harmed. For example by keeping the lion in a zoo we, as zoo visitors can view it from a closer distance and learn more about it. There is always the chance of young children putting their hands through cages, or of keepers themselves being trampled by an elephant, but in general, the risk, although always there, is very small. Zoos usually have high educational levels and even people of old age find it interesting and always learn something new. People living in cities can increase their knowledge about nature by making a visit to the zoo. This however can also have its negative effects, when we take into consideration what harm can be done to the animals by keeping them in cages.
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Zookeepers try their best to keep the animals in good health by cleaning the cages and even washing some of the animals regularly. The fact still remains that no matter how well the animals are being treated they are still being deprived of their natural habitat and are unnaturally confined together even in larger zoos as Safari parks like Woburn and Whipsnade. This may increase the chance of an illness breaking out, which could affect all the animals in the zoo, not only those threatened with extinction. One of the zoos’ main goals is to protect the species and try and prevent them from becoming extinct. Animals, which are becoming increasingly rare are kept and bred in captivity and well looked after in zoos. This increases the animals’ population and made possible through the knowledge of scientists. They can research animals much easier when they are kept in zoos, and can also learn more about the relationships between the animals, their life cycles and how mothers look after their offspring. However, the public’s main concern is not about individual animals but about preventing the extinction of entire species
Perhaps the public’s greatest fear about zoos is that the animals are cruelly treated or kept in conditions, which causes them to change their behaviour. Animals have to stay in small restricted areas for long periods of time as opposed to the wild where they had unlimited space and freedom. The zoo may also change the characters of many animals as they soon forget how to hunt for their own food or how to protect themselves in danger. In zoos, the animals are kept safe from hunting but at the same time being deprived of the ability to improve their hunting skills. They can therefore never be let back into the wild. An example of this is chimpanzees. They can’t just get their food they have to entertain people when trying to work out how to open yogurt pots and find hidden fruit, for example in the wild they would never need to do such unnatural things in order to feed themselves or try and impress people through this.
Animals don’t only lose their freedom by being kept in zoos but also their socialization with the other animals. This is also true about the seals that have to perform tricks in order to receive a treat (fish). This however would be different in the wild because they can catch fish to eat whenever they want. Through changing all these factors animals will therefore act differently in zoos and people still see them there but is in actual fact not learning what these animals are truly like, in nature On balance, I believe that zoos can be a benefit both for the public and for the animal world if the conditions are as natural as possible, if they are well looked after and treated with care. I think that the Whipsnade zoo in Bedfordshire is a good example of a zoo, which can both educate the public while working to prevent certain species from becoming extinct.