Zoos Are Prisons

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Rachel Olson

English

King 4

December 1, 1999

If you have ever stepped into a zoo, you have stepped into a prison in which the inmates are defenseless and innocent, the sentence is long, and the penalty is cruel and severe. Zoos are not made for educational purposes but for entertainment, they do not benefit animals but push them toward extinction. "Zoos range in size and quality from cage-less parks to small roadside menageries with concrete slabs and iron bars." (Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) The larger the zoo and the greater the number and variety of the animals it contains, the more it costs to provide quality care for the animals. Although more than 112 million people visit zoos in the U.S. and Canada every year, most zoos operate at a loss and must find ways to cut costs (which sometimes means selling animals) or add gimmicks that will attract visitors. (Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) Zoo officials often consider profits over the animals' well- being.(Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) A former director of the Atlanta Zoo once remarked that he was "too far removed from the animals; they're the last thing I worry about with all the other problems." (Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.)

Zoos are nothing more than animal prisons maintained for human amusement, not for education. ("Zoocheck".) Most zoo enclosures are quite small,

Rachel Olson

and labels provide little more information than the species name, diet, and natural range. (Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) The animals' normal behavior is seldom discussed, much less observed, because their natural needs are seldom met. Birds' wings may be clipped so they cannot fly, aquatic animals often have little water, and the many animals who naturally live in large herds or family groups are often kept alone or, at most, in pairs. (Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) Natural hunting and mating behaviors are virtually eliminated by regulated feeding and breeding regimens. (Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) The animals are closely confined, lack privacy, and have little opportunity for mental stimulation or physical exercise. Animals forced to endure such confinement often display abnormal and self-destructive behavior called "Zoochosis".(Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) Zoochosis is a mental illness; symptoms include pacing, neck twisting, and other repetitive behaviors.("Zoocheck".)

A worldwide study of zoos conducted by the Born Free Foundation revealed that Zoochosis is rampant in confined animals around the world.(Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) Another study found that elephants spend 22 percent of their time engaging in abnormal behaviors such as repeated head bobbing or biting cage bars, and bears spend about 30 percent of their time pacing, which is a sign of distress.(Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.)

Rachel Olson

One sanctuary where rescued zoo animals stay reports seeing frequent signs of Zoochosis. Of chimpanzees, who bite their own limbs from captivity induced stress, the manager says: "Their hands were unrecognizable from all the scar tissue."(Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) Captivity drives many animals insane, causing them to sink into depression, to fret, to turn in endless circles, and even tear holes in their own skin.("Zoocheck".) More than half the world's zoos are still in bad condition and treating chimpanzees poorly.(Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.)

As for education, zoo visitors usually spend only a few minutes at each display, seeking entertainment rather than enlightenment. A study of a zoo in Buffalo, N.Y., found that most people passed cages quickly, and described animals in such terms as "funny-looking," "dirty," or "lazy."(Zoos: Pitiful Prisons.) This is hardly education. The only things that are being taught are that it is acceptable to capture wild animals (often by killing their mothers), separate them from their families and homes, and confine them in small cages.

Zoos claim to protect species from extinction. This sounds like a noble goal, but zoo officials usually favor exotic or...
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