Discussion of The Issues of Zoos: Imprisonment Or Preservation

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About this sample


Words: 2221 |

Pages: 5|

12 min read

Published: Apr 8, 2022

Words: 2221|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: Apr 8, 2022

Zoos are some of the most pleasurable ways to spend your afternoon. It is a way to entertain a family and give them a delightful evening to remember. Zoos are beautiful places that give the chance to see interesting and peculiar animals. The word zoo is short for zoological park. So, zoos count as your traditional zoos and sanctuaries as well as aquariums. There are approximately over 10,000 zoos and aquariums worldwide and 2,400 of them alone are in the US. However, few people believe that zoos are not a great place for animals to stay. They believe the animals belong in their natural habitats and believe that captivity decreases longevity in animals. Zoos are not ethical for animals because most animals experience behavioral changes, zoos don't have adequate space for animals, and most animals in zoos are kept in captivity for profit.

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Most of the debate over why zoos are not ethical all boils down to the fact that a large group of the population believes zoos go against animal rights. Of course animals do not have the same natural rights as humans; however, we should put some consideration into what is best for them. PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, put on their website “regardless of whether they are “cute,” useful to humans, or an endangered species…” PETA, as well as other members of society, believe that animals deserve rights just like people. This is due to the fact that animals are just as alive as we are. If animals were looked at as if they were humans you would see why zoos could be equated to the American prison system. To most this is like comparing apples to oranges; these are two different things that are not very similar but when you look at it on a deeper level and not just face value the pieces line up. Usually, when inmates are locked up they are analyzed from a sociological or psychological point of view while animals are trying to be understood through ethology, the study of animal behavior and countless studies in zoology. The comparison of captive animals to people is an insult, especially when comparing the nature of animals and their behavior to those of humans.

Before talking about the similarities between zoos and jails, you would need to break down the American prison system, the place no one wants to go, a place for people expelled from society. Going to jail or prison is a form of punishment that takes an offender from society and lock them in a cell where they are not allowed to be a re-offender. It gives them a chance to reminisce and reflect on their actions and change their behavior. However, a prison can not rehabilitate a person because behavior is something that must be changed on their own. Making prisons more a place of confinement and punishment, rather than rehabilitation. With these out of the way, humans can be compared to animals who share similarities close to humans, like birds, mammals, and other vertebrate animals. Just like humans, these animals fall under the same phylum, chordate, and they all have similar behaviors and senses like their human counterparts. This will make it easy to compare the captive and incarcerated lifestyles. All living organisms are adaptive, and they will adapt to the environment they are living in. Psychology shows when moved to new areas that the body takes time to adapt and this can cause several ailments, Dr. Moran talks about this in his book, “Human Adaptability”. Dr. Moran states it is common to feel the following ailments, “researchers have noted that insomnia, disrupted sleep, anxiety, depression, and irritability are common (“Zoochotic Behavior”).” A similar phenomenon occurs in animals known as, “zoochosis”, which is defined as a repetitive, invariant behavior pattern with no end goal. Which is caused by separation from their habitats, forced idleness, drugs, and medical fertility control. Captivity causes immense psychological damage and a zoochotic animal should not be laughed at just like a mentally ill human should not be laughed at.

Other than mentally affecting animals zoo physically affects animals too by not having adequate space. No zoo or aquarium can replicate a perfect living environment for animals in captivity. Zoos claim to provide a safe habitat for these animals to live in but if the shoe was on the other foot they would see how unfair they are to the animals. If they were put into a birdcage would they be as comfortable versus being in their home? The average amount of land a monkey would usually occupy is usually 247 acres, and that kind of land is just not acquirable for a zoo to obtain. Prison cells like their counterpart zoos do not have a lot of room for freedom. The average prison cell size is 12 feet by eight feet and holds two inmates who usually have to share a toilet in the corner of the room. Both prisons and zoos lack privacy but unlike prisons, animals in zoos are on a wide display. Due to the lack of space, most animals get frequent muscle contractions and their muscles become rigid, a symptom of zoochosis, because they can not move around as freely in captivity. Did you know in some places they euthanize the surplus of animals? The practice of ‘management euthanasia’, in which zoos kill otherwise healthy surplus animals (Browning 486). Management euthanasia is usually performed when there is believed to be in the best interest of the surplus animals who need to be culled for breeding. Some zoos and aquariums justify this is necessary for the species to flourish in captivity and not be overcrowded. Management euthanasia became a major ethical debate after 18 months old, Marius the Giraffe was killed because “ his genes were already sufficiently represented in the giraffe population across the zoos in Europe”. There was a huge ethical debate about this because he was euthanized since his “genes” were represented in Europe’s zoos; however, his brother was in an England zoo and that made Marius, a “surplus-animal”. But against the mass outcry against it, Marius was euthanized, dissected in front of an audience, and his remains were fed to the zoo's lions (“Zoo that killed”). People were furious over this and several zoo spokesmen spoke about culling animals on an international scale but Terry Maple and David Bocian refuted this in the journal, “Zoo Biology”. They stated that promoting animal welfare is improving the captive animals life from good to great (Maple and Bocian 365), and zoos euthanizing animals is the way to do this. It decreases the chance of overpopulation and inbreeding which would cause a mutation in the gene pool of the animals. Maple and Bocian controversial journal offend lots of people but most people agree with them and think that zoos are doing what is best for the animals.

Although zoos are not ethical for animals because they disrupt an animal natural behavior and do not provide a sufficient amount of housing space, they are especially unethical because a majority of animals in captivity are not even endangered. For example owls, alligators, as well as black bears are animals commonly found in most zoos across the United States and other countries that are not even on the endangered species list anymore (Arlington). The two common species of owls in zoos, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Milky Eagle-Owl, are two solitary nocturnal hunters that are not even on the endangered species list since they have stable populations across the United States. Yet, they are still in captivity and displayed year-round to the public. Another animal displayed year-round in zoos is the illustrious American Alligator who have not been on the animal extinction list since 1987; that is a whole 32 years that these animals have been safe. However, it is common to see them in captivity and marketed as endangered. The Louisiana Black Bear, the animal associated with teddy bears, was removed from the endangered species list March 10, 2016, but still appeared in zoos to this day. The species was endangered do to mass hunting in 1902, while President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, a big game hunter was in office and had set out to kill a bear in Mississippi. These three are among the thousands of animals in captivity they are not even endangered but are still kept in captivity.

Some zoos do help with conservation projects, but even then most of the animals that rest in the zoo may never be released into their natural habits. This is usually because of their habitats being destroyed, they are traded to other zoos, born through a breeding program, or they are culled to stop overpopulation in zoos. In a National Geographic journal, Benjamin Beck, former associate director of biological programs at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., found that in the last century, only 16 of 145 reintroduction programs worldwide ever actually restored any animal populations to the wild. Of the 16, most animals were relocated because of government interference. Whenever zoos bring in endangered species or eggs from the wild they do a process known as “conservation breeding”, which is breeding a species, so they can be reintroduced into the wild. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums worked together to create a plan known as, Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is the guidelines on animal care and breeding for captive animals.

The truth is that most breeding programs are unsuccessful because of animals being in unnatural environments and forced to mate. After they begin to reproduce most zoos will display the babies and draw in customers to their new attraction. They began to make profits which in turn promotes more babies to be born. Since sometimes baby animals are wanted more (even if space is limited) this creates “surplus”, which requires animals to be culled. Now endangered animals are either traded to another zoo or euthanized in secret to not go against SSP guidelines. Copenhagen Zoo, home to Marius the giraffe, also killed four healthy lions (two adults and two cubs) just to make room for a new lion they wanted to breed. Copenhagen Zoo tried to rationalize their decision by saying, “Because of the pride of lions' natural structure and behavior, the zoo has had to euthanize the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves,” and that the only reason the two 10-month old cubs were euthanized was because “would have been killed by the new male lion as soon as he got the chance” (“ Zoo that killed”). The zoo boss, Bengt Holst received death threats from animal lovers because he put down Marius despite the online potion created to keep him alive. Similar to Marius who was a giraffe, those lions were a part of the list of animals close to being put on the endangered species list. When questioned on his action, Holst defended his choice, saying these management choices are “done every day”, and the public is just not told. Besides culling and euthanizing animals zoos will relocate and trade animals as they deem necessary. Usually, an animal is transferred when it is thought to have lost its ability to profit or can longer breed. This, in turn, breaks apart bonds and remove animals from a surrounding the have grown to know. This triggers most animals to get zoochosis. Like most marine parks, a zoo’s first goal is to attract customers and profit, then care for the animals.

Though many aspects of zoos are bad, they still have plenty of other ethical and good things about them. Zoos provide an education opportunity to society and give people a chance to connect with another species. Seeing these animals in person allows a personal connection which might instill an empathetic view for animals. If it were not for zoos and zoologist countless hours of research and exploration we would not know half the things we know about these majestic creatures. Also, as stated in several earlier paragraphs, zoos provide a home for endangered species. Most zoos have a breeding program to keep endangered species around or in the case of the Panamanian Golden Frog, they could be brought back from extinction. In zoos, these animals are protected from hunters, habitat loss, and predators that they would usually face in the wild. This increases their lifespan just a little compared to if they were still in the wild. Countless zoo set up “insurance” population, which are the surplus animals that are not killed but relocated to be used in case an extinct event occurred. It is easy to attack a zoo when the media post more negative articles than the thousands of good things they do.

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As you can see zoos are not ethical establishments that solely care about the preservation of animals. The lead animals to gain social behavior problems similar to humans left in confinement for too long. The animals do not have adequate housing space which affects their lifestyle compared to if they were free in nature. Most zoos solely focus on profits. Lastly, most animals in zoos are not even considered near extinction. Imagine if the roles were reversed and humans lived in the conditions as these animals. It's not luxurious, is it? Exactly why consideration should go into improving the lives of captive animals.

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Discussion of the Issues of Zoos: Imprisonment or Preservation. (2022, April 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
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