Animal Preservation/ Welfare: Zoos are Detrimental to the Preservation of Animals

Boo- Hoo to Zoos

By Sophie Squire

The presence of zoos has long been a very prevalent and controversial topic in society. Many people and organizations oppose the role of animals in zoos for emotional, environmental, and logical reasons including the rights of animals and illegal trade. A species natural rights are based on how they would live in their natural and unaltered habitat, with freedom and little affiliation with humans. However, there are many controversial opinions on this topic. Organizations against the foundation of zoos all share similar reasoning, which includes management and safety risks, animal mistreatment, and expenses. The anti zoo organizations and campaigns I will be researching believe that zoos are detrimental to the preservation and the rights of animals.

Some anti zoo organizations specifically target low income zoos (including the Giza Zoo in Egypt, Africa and the Kiev Zoo in Kiev, Ukraine) and proclaim that low income zoos should be especially unqualified in managing zoos due to lack of funds for the animal’s care, risk of illegal animal trade, the risk of visitor safety, and undereducated zoo workers.

Overall, the controversy regarding the development of zoos and it’s acceptance in society is an ongoing contentious topic that governments appear to overlook.

The evidence on the detrimental effects of zoos is abundant. I have chosen to analyze two, out of many, zoos that are opposed by many animal rights organizations.

The Giza Zoo, located in Giza, Egypt has sparked many disapproving critiques mainly due to the mistreatment of animals and visitor safety issues.

Opened in 1891 and located on 80 acres, the Giza Zoo is home to over 6,000 animals and 175 different species. The Giza Zoo receives an estimate of 3 million guests annually. The zoo’s mission is to conserve wild animals, especially endangered species which successfully breed in the zoo, and to participate in research related to wildlife and zoo animals.

This is achieved by

  • Keeping and presenting animals according to the best practices.
  • Giving priority to species that are threatened in the wild.
  • Developing its role to be a center for wildlife conservation.
  • Participation in research related to wildlife & zoo animals.
  • Improving public awareness of animal behavior, global and local conservation of endangered species (especially Egyptian), and role of zoo and wildlife conservation.

They also have an overall statement that translates to “Stimulate Love for Animals and Plants.”

The Giza Zoo was expelled in 2004 from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) because of it’s failure to pass a zoo inspection,  to pay group dues, and the inhumane killing by Egyptian authorities of two gorillas thought to be infected with the Ebola virus, zoo officials reported. WAZA also has a list of complaints concerning the zoo’s use of chains to restrain elephants as well as the overly small cages that the animals are kept in, according to the Global Post. The Zoo is also known from multiple organizations and websites as one of the worst zoos in the world.

The Mother Nature Network, a website for environmental news, blog commentary, advice on sustainable living, and conservation and social responsibility recorded their opinion on the Giza Zoo in an article titled ‘6 of the saddest zoos in the world’. The article’s section on the Giza Zoo states “Zookeepers reportedly augment their salaries by charging patrons to enter the cages with the animals, and two men broke into the zoo in 2007, killing two camels. Dozens of birds died from avian flu in 2006, and more than 500 were slaughtered to stem the outbreak.”

The Mother Nature Network’s (MNN) article on the Giza Zoo implies that the zoo’s management is very undereducated and unprofessional. MNN gives the impression that the Giza Zoo jeopardizes the lives of both animals and zoo guests. The statement  “zookeepers try to make more money by charging visitors to enter the cages of and even hold the animals.” suggests that the Giza Zoo is very dangerous place for human visitors as wild animals such as crocodiles and lions are very capable of injuring and even killing a human.

The Dodo, an educational website regarding the importance of animal welfare, also recorded their opinion on the Giza Zoo in an article titled ‘The 5 Worst Zoos in the World’. The portion of the article that regards the Giza Zoo states “The Giza Zoo has been targeted by activists for years for a plethora of animal welfare issues filmed in this disturbing footage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke29vr3l2J8). The animals live in cramped, dirty cages and get little exercise or enrichment and zookeepers reportedly charge visitors to enter the cages with the animals. Not bad enough? Dozens of animals have died in questionable circumstances.”

The Dodo’s explanation implies that the zoo’s management doesn’t care for animals, and are suspicious of probable illegal animal trade. The video included in the article proves that the cages most animals are held in are unsuitable for fostering a wild animal life style and that zookeepers will allow visitors into the animal cages in return for a monetary reward.

Given these two articles in which oppose the Giza Zoo, the overall opinion is that zoo’s management and workers are very undereducated in how to attend to species care and needs, workers are unaware of the risk they are taking by allowing zoo visitors to have contact with wild animals, and that the zoo poses very questionable patterns of animal deaths, arrivals, and disappearances.

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Lions in their cramped cage at the Giza Zoo in Giza, Egypt

Another controversial and widely unaccepted zoo is the Kiev Zoo located in Kiev, Ukraine. Founded in 1908 by the Nature Lovers Society and located on 99 acres, the Kiev Zoo is home to over 1,900 animals and 339 different species. The zoo is managed by 378 staff members and has 280,000 annual visitors. The zoo began to depreciate after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and the years of poverty that followed. The Kiev Zoo’s statement is as follows “Kiev Zoo serves as a scientific research center, where the specialists work on acclimation of the far lands animals, the preservation and reproduction of rare animals, such as the Amur tiger, bison, Przhevalsky horse and some others.” However, critics of the zoo disagree. Anti-zoo organizations have coined the phrase associated with the Kiev Zoo “a concentration camp for animals.” The history of the Kiev Zoo animals are unfortunate, there have been 250 of deaths and 131 missing animals in the time span of 2 years. The Kiev Zoo also raises suspicion of the illegal export of animals because of its many “missing animals.” The Kiev Zoo was expelled from the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2007 after the euthanasia of an “innocent” bear and because of the excessively poor conditions and the mistreatment of animals.

The majority of animals within the Kiev Zoo experience symptoms of zoochosis: the pacing and circling, tongue-playing and bar-biting, neck twisting, head-bobbing, weaving and swaying, rocking, over grooming and self-mutilation, vomiting and regurgitation, and coprophilia and coprophagia. Proof of this can be seen in these following videos:

Wildlife New Zealand describes zoochosis as being very depressing to view and is caused by separating animals from their natural habitats, enforced idleness, direct control from humans, loss of life in normal social groups, drugs and medical fertility control, and the act of caging.

Not only does the Kiev Zoo animals show signs of zoochosis, according to NatureWatch, a foundation that  aims to end animal cruelty and advance animal welfare standards around the world, the Kiev Zoo needs to be shut down due to the lack of medical care for and the mistreatment of animals. NatureWatch attempted to shut down the zoo and transport the animals elsewhere where they would be safer. John Ruane of NatureWatch says “So many animals died due to malnutrition, lack of medical care and mistreatment, the Kiev Zoo will never attain any basic standards, it’s so far removed from any zoo in Europe.”

NatureWatch implies that the Kiev Zoo is not qualified in caring for wild animals and provide proof of this by displaying the hundreds of deaths and “missing” animal cases. NatureWatch is one of many organizations and people who are opposed to the Kiev Zoo.

DailyMail.com is also one of the many groups that oppose the Kiev Zoo. DailyMail is a United Kingdom based online newspaper that mainly publishes articles about controversial topics. In its article ‘A concentration camp for fur and feathers: Scandal of the zoo where the animals keep dying’, DailyMail analyzes the zoo and says “Animals were kept in cramped, poorly lit and poorly heated enclosures, fed improperly and left unattended, according to watchdogs. The elderly brown bear named Dinara had been moved from a small enclosure where she had spent all her life to a bigger pen with a male Malayan sun bear. Stressed by the new premises and her new companion, Dinara began to bang her head against the concrete walls of the enclosure, leaving blood stains on the walls and floor. After days of this, she was euthanised.”

“An Indian elephant called Boy, the pride of the zoo, collapsed and died in his enclosure last year. Around the same time, Maya the camel succumbed to a digestive illness and Theo the zebra died after crashing into a metal fence.”

“Other violations included the purchase of medication for already deceased apes, paying for hyenas that were never shipped to the zoo, the illegal sale of 12 macaques, the unrecorded sale of zoo tickets and the misallocation of funds earmarked for feeding the zoo’s animals.

The violations totalled $200,000, according to Irina Parkhomenko, spokeswoman for the government auditing agency.

In the DailyMail’s analysis of the zoo, it seems as if the Kiev Zoo management and workers are very unprofessional and uneducated on the medical needs of animals. The fact that the nickname ‘concentration camp for animals’ is associated so frequently with the Kiev Zoo gives the impression of cruelty and excessive deaths, which fits the DailyMail’s description.

In another section of DailyMail’s article ‘A concentration camp for fur and feathers: Scandal of the zoo where the animals keep dying’, Kiev Zoo manager, Oleksiy Tolstoukhov states his side of the argument. He states “It’s not as bad as they say, In all the zoos, including in Europe, animals don’t live a million years. They also die and get sick.” He also denies the amount of missing and diseased animals.

Tolstoukhov’s response seems somewhat unreasonable and he appears to be avoiding the opposing issue: the mistreatment of animals at the Kiev Zoo.

In the last section of DailyMail’s article, Tamara Tarnavska is interviewed about her visit to the Kiev Zoo. She says “The zoo is in such a condition that it’s no longer a zoo, it’s a concentration camp, when I look those animals in the eyes, I am ashamed to be a human being.”

Again, the Kiev Zoo is proclaimed as a “concentration camp.” Tarnsava indicates that the Kiev Zoo is not a beneficial space for animals to live healthily and happily.

The Kiev Zoo appears to be a very corrupt system. It’s funds are unrecorded and the zoo management cannot manage money in a way that is beneficial to the animals health. There have been multiple cases of “missing animals” which is a very unlikely scenario in a zoo surrounded by a big city such as Kiev. The staggering statistics of over 350 animal deaths or “disappearances” in the time span of two years is too significant to simply deny. The zoo is very corrupt and secret, it is unknown where the “missing” animals went, how such a great amount of animals died, and where the money used for the animals care went. It seems as if the zoo was encountering a financial crisis and had to resort to other means of collecting funds.

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‘Boy’ an elephant collapsed and died at the Kiev Zoo in Kiev, Ukraine

PETA is one of the thousands of animal rights organizations that focus on animals who are held captive for entertainment in zoos. PETA, or People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, was founded in 1980 and is dedicated to establishing and defending the rights of all animals. PETA has over three million workers and fans and has had over 1,000 victories in helping the preservation of animals. PETA is an activist group that targets certain organizations, schools, books, websites, people, brands, etc and pushes them to change their animal cruelty ways by educating and protesting. PETA is the largest animal rights organization and operates under the principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. PETA educates policymakers and the public about animal abuse and promotes kind treatment of animals. PETA is an international nonprofit charitable organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, with affiliates worldwide. PETA mainly focuses on animal mistreatment in on factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment (zoo) industry. In order to promote, spread awareness, and change the way society treats animals, PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns. PETA has over three million workers and fans and has accomplished over 1,000 victories in helping the preservation and mistreatment of animals. PETA is believed to acquire so many successes because of its extreme campaign tactics.  PETA has many campaigns that tend to employ strong ethos appeals by recruiting well known celebrities and using them to participate in provocative campaigns and protests such as the ‘I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur’ campaign. PETA also tends to employ intense pathos appeals in the education of animal abuse such as in their recent campaign ‘Whose Skin are You In?’.

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One of many provacative and ethos appealed PETA ads

PETA specifically opposes zoos because of the tight, cramped spacing given to animals, the illegal smuggling of animals, and mistreatment and physical abuse of animals. PETA opposes the fact that animals being held in captivity in zoos are restricted of their natural rights as animals including flying, swimming, running, hunting, exploring, etc. PETA is against the presumption that zoos are the best way of conserving, protecting, breeding, and educating the public about animals. PETA believes that in order to change the zoo and animal entertainment system, the world’s governments must stop spending so much money on animal entertainment including zoos, amusement parks, concession stands, and gift shops and instead use the money towards animal and habitat preservation projects. This way, PETA believes that endangered animals would likely not be at risk of extinction and be able to live a full, healthy life.

Another successful animal right organization that investigates and protests against the use of animals for entertainment purposes including zoos is the Last Chance for Animals foundation (LCA). Last Chance for Animals was founded in 1984 and is a national, nonprofit animal advocacy organization focused on investigating, exposing, and ending animal exploitation through education, investigations, legislation, and media attention. The LCA believes that animals exist for their own reasons and should not be forced to suffer from human neglect, and people should be punished for inflicting cruelty on animals. Like PETA, the LCA focuses mainly on opposing animals being used in food and clothing production, scientific experimentation, and entertainment. LCA is a successful organization that imposes change in animal cruelty and animal cruelty awareness by developing successful campaigns and investigations. LCA employs a much more subtle approach to their campaigns,  investigations, and fundraisers. They tend to raise funds from educating the public with a logical appeal. Although they are not quite as successful as PETA, LCA uses reasonable and mainstream logic to raise awareness and funds.

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One of LCA’s ads

Last Chance for Animals opposes zoos because they believe zoos lie about conserving, educating, and researching animals and instead feel as if zoos are entirely created for entertainment and profit purposes and not in any way created for the sake of animals. LCA is also concerned about the animals health and safety while in zoos and investigate zoo animal deaths and zoochosis symptoms. LCA believes that governments are not concerned with the well being of animals in their article regarding zoos that states “However, if they (governments) were truly concerned with the preservation of species, they would instead work to preserve animals’ natural habitat. For it is in fact humans who are eroding the natural habitat of numerous species through pollution, rangeland degradation, topsoil erosion, crop and groundwater contamination, and other harmful processes.”

Both PETA and LCA are idealistic associations that view zoos as corrupt, abusive, and unfair to animals and believe that wild animals should be left alone in their natural habitat and have little encounters with humans.

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As you can see in these graphs, animals are proven to have a shorter life expectancy in zoos.

There are still many conflicting and controversial opinions revolving the preservation and welfare of animals held captive in zoos. Although the anti zoo organizations I have analyzed have many fans, workers, and can be very successful; organizations and people who are in favor of zoos are also very common. Although the argument on the preservation of animals in zoos is still open-ended, since zoos are still of universal prevalence, the supporters of zoos are leading in the controversy regarding the preservation of animals in zoos.

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11 thoughts on “Animal Preservation/ Welfare: Zoos are Detrimental to the Preservation of Animals

  1. I wonder if groups like PETA exist elsewhere and have the same effect as PETA does here (which is not much action necessarily, but a lot of advertisement for sure)

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  2. I agree with PETA, in that animal lives matter and we should do what we can to allow them to live their lives, but I don’t understand why they feel the need to use such provocative advertisements. It takes the focus away from the issue at hand.

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  3. Where is this going in the future? How bad are the anti-zoo people and organizations loosing? are they progressing or loosing ground on winning arguments?

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  4. I think the argument against zoos is so strong because the statistics themselves are so emotionally compelling which is not always the case.

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  5. In your opinion what is the best way to approach animal preservation? Do you agree believe that zoos are detrimental to the preservation of animals?

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