We’ve all heard of the overly-used arguments that people make in order to support the captivity of animals. One of the headlining bullet points of any pro-cap is that zoos promote education and conservation … especially amongst children. Well, perhaps it’s time for captivity supporters to rearrange their “list of claims” because based on a newly published paper in the academic journal, Conservation Biology, the idea that zoos educate children “shockingly” appears to be untrue.

After surveying over 2,800 children after both guided and unguided visits to the London Zoo, most children (62 percent, to be exact) showed no indication of learning new facts about animals or environmental conservation. What’s even better is that some kids even demonstrated what the study calls a “negative learning outcome.” This negative learning outcome was discovered when children were asked if they believed they could actively participate in conservation efforts. Based on the study’s findings, children “did not feel empowered to believe that they can take ‘effective ameliorative action’ on matters relating to conservation after their zoo experience.”

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The director of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS), Liz Tyson, explains the results of the study, “Zoos present an entirely false view of both the animals themselves, and of the real and very urgent issues facing many species in their natural homes. This new research appears to confirm what we have said for many years. Zoos do not educate nor do they empower or inspire children to become conservationists.”

What?! Viewing a polar bear lay flat on a concrete floor instead of hunting for seals on ice is not considered education? How truly groundbreaking.

A similar report in 2010 (mind you, a report commissioned by the government) showed early signs of concern about the lack of educational impact made by zoological institutions.

In addition to her statement, Tyson suggests alternatives to the easily accessible zoos we all grew fond of as kids, “There are many ways to learn about the natural world without holding animals captive for their lifetimes in order to do so. We would like to encourage schools and parents everywhere to look to more compassionate, inspiring and educative activities for their children”.

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Furthermore, we suggest that zoo-lovers begin switching from the prison-like conditions of zoos to sanctuaries that offer protection for animals rather than profiting off of them.

So tell us, Green Monsters. Do you think this study will alter a pro-caps views on the impact of animal captivity on human education? Let us know in the comments section!

Image source: woodleywonderworks/Flickr

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