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Toronto zoo elephants head to sunny California and Costa Rica permanently closes its zoos. What’s going on here? Why the sudden shift from holding wild animals captive to freeing them? Perhaps it’s because of one, or several, of the following reasons.

1. The Cost of Capture

As depicted in the scathing documentary “Blackfish,” capturing orcas comes at a huge cost — the death of several orcas and the permanent destruction a family. Another more recent capture left two orcas dead and separated the others from their families, forever.

2. Zoo Animals Live in Cages

Zoo animals are robbed of their right to exist naturally. Their lives are not their own and they are prevented from fulfilling basic needs such as hunting, grazing, roaming, and developing important social structures.

3. Not All Zoos Are Created Equal

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), only 10 percent of the 2,000 menageries in the U.S. are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The AZA is not without limitations though, for example, SeaWorld is on its accredited list.

4. Many Animal Sanctuaries Aren’t Actually Sanctuaries

Many of these countrywide menageries claim to be sanctuaries for rescued wildlife. This is can be very misleading to its visitors. If a sanctuary breeds animals outside of conservation efforts, it isn’t a sanctuary. True rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries should never breed animals for display. So instead of supporting these types of operations, here is a list of 10 real and amazing animal sanctuaries to support instead.

5. Wild Animals Are Wild

Recently, a zookeeper in Missouri was killed when he was knocked to the ground by an elephant. He died instantly. The orca featured in the film “Blackfish,” is responsible for three deaths. Wild animals, despite being wondrous and beautiful, can be dangerous in captivity.

6. Zoo Animals Escape

If a dangerous zoo animal escapes and cannot be captured, it is killed. Just this year, three wolves that escaped from a zoo in the U.K. were shot dead when authorities were unable to recapture them. Also this year, a red panda escaped from the National Zoo. Luckily, tourists spotted the raccoon-like animal and it was returned to the zoo.

7. Unnatural Habitats

Flamingos in cold climates, polar bears in Argentina, and whales in bathtubs — these are hardly natural environments for animals. Flamingos develop problems with their feet in captivity, polar bears suffer in hot weather, and orcas are distressed in cramped pools. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these pictures are worth a thousand tears.

8. Bad Management Can Mean Death

At a so-called “Animal Park” in the affluent suburbs of Washington, D.C., an unwanted wallaby was drowned to death when the owner no longer wanted it. These types of unaccredited zoos are a large problem in the U.S. and they are easy to set up. A person can obtain an exhibitor license under the Animal Welfare Act, privately possess wild animals and establish a zoo.

9. Animals Often Die Prematurely in Zoos

Not all zoos have the ability, or proper training to care for the animals that they capture or breed. Recently, a lion in a Texas zoo killed a lioness, something that does not occur in the wild.

10. It’s Bad For Their Health

It isn’t just the dogs in the U.S. who are becoming overweight, it’s also zoo elephants. Not only are these elephants overweight, but they are also exhibiting specific behaviors that indicate mental distress as a result of captivity.

Alternatives to Zoos

Before you go, know the facts about the zoo, or sanctuary, that you plan to visit. If the environment looks dilapidated, or the animals look sick, take pictures and make a complaint to the management. You can also file a complaint with the USDA. (There are over 15,000 facilities in the U.S. that keep animals, but there are less than 150 USDA inspectors.)

The American Sanctuary Association (ASA) provides a list of accredited sanctuaries to visit or volunteer with. In addition to the ASA, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) also has a list of accredited sanctuaries.

Alternatively, there are other wonderful ways to experience wild animals such as scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, and bird watching. If you’re not sure where to get started, find a national park near you.

Ultimately, animals do not belong in cages, or behind concrete walls. No matter how brightly a wall is painted, or how large a cage is, a zoo environment cannot compare to an animal’s wild habitat.

Image Source: Max Borge/Flickr

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40 comments on “10 Reasons to Skip Your Next Zoo Visit”

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Frank White
1 Months Ago

While these are legitimate concerns, I think zoos serve a useful purpose. Unfortunately, when it comes to human beings, out of sight often means out of mind, but visiting zoos is a family activity that keeps these animals in the public eye and makes people, maybe especially kids, want to learn more about these wonderful creatures. It\'s the only place most people will ever see these animals in the real world - even if it\'s not the animals\' natural environment. I don\'t think telling a kid to just look up some videos or watch a nature program is as likely to lead to a lasting interest. And as far as breeding goes, even if it\'s true that most of the animals born in zoos stay in zoos, at least that allows more of them that are in the wild to STAY in the wild - where many of them will be hunted or robbed of their habits to the point of near extinction. (I\'d feel much better about the whole "they\'re best left in the wild" if that last bit weren\'t true.)


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Pooper
8 Months Ago

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Reply
The big number 2
22 May 2017

oh yes lord

Pooper
8 Months Ago

go die poop


Reply
Pooper
8 Months Ago

u are ugly


Reply
Pooper
8 Months Ago

u smell like poop


Reply
susan
8 Months Ago

you are true!!!
look!


Reply
randa
8 Months Ago

zoos are good and this is a fake web site.


Reply
123
11 Jan 2018

ZOOS ARE TERRIBLE!

Randal
8 Months Ago

This is wrong! Zoo\'s are good!


Reply
456
11 Jan 2018

NO THEY ARE NOT!

Jenna Anne
4 Years Ago

where is god?


Reply
Emma ashford
25 Jan 2017

heaven

Randal
26 Apr 2017

Wow. Just wow.

Elizabeth Collins
4 Years Ago

I don't have to see an animal in person to know that it's worthy of life. Plenty of great videos and written stories about the marvels of life on Earth. And more than that: If zoos and their visitors put their money into saving the animals' ecosystems we wouldn't need them to "conserve" any species.


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