Zoo: to be or not to be?

Hi friends! We have been confirming sites for Animals and we’re having a lot of fun. We would like to update you on what we have been up to.

One site that we visited on Wednesday was Stone Zoo. There were a few concerns as we were not sure what to expect from a zoo and we were talking about morality and ethics in terms of zoos. Today, we would like to discuss the argument for and against zoos as we really emphasize education during FYSOP.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of “zoo” is “a garden or park where wild animals are kept for exhibition.” These sorts of definitions and ideas are what boost the arguments of animal activists. Why should animals be kept for entertainment purposes? Scientifically, humans are animals too. An interesting idea would be to imagine if a different animal, say lions, were in our position and we were the ones enclosed in these spaces. How would you feel? Animals in zoos are in spaces that are not their natural environments and as much as zoos can try to recreate these environment, these animals still have limited space.

In terms of the ethical implications of zoos, the Captive Animals’ Protections Society (CAPS) make a good argument: “We believe that the keeping of animals in zoos sends a damaging message to the general public, and particularly children and young people, by the implication that animals can be maintained in captivity to satisfy our own curiosity, despite the animal gaining no benefit from the practice. The practice implies that the animals’ own lives hold no inherent value in their own right; the keeping of animals in zoos therefore have negative educational impact.” This argument is interesting because it says that despite our curiosity about the other flora and fauna in our world, observing these animals in this way is detrimental for our own education. In trying to learn about these animals, we are taking them out of their natural habitats and observing their habits which are affected by the limited spaces and taking these observations as fact.

Tiger

A tiger in a zoo may not show all of its natural habits; however, accredited zoos such as Stone Zoo work to maintain the animals’ senses.

As part of our research, we have been looking at the mission statements of a few zoos. Some words that we look for include “research,” “entertainment,” “appreciation,” “education,” etc. Do some of your own research and check out these mission statements. What do you notice? What should a good mission statement be for a zoo?

On the other hand, one thing that we talked about at Stone Zoo was the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The AZA has a group of experts that check zoos’ standards, policies, and practices. Zoos accredited by the AZA have high standards of animal care. Unfortunately, less that 10% of zoos and aquariums are AZA accredited. To be AZA accredited, an institution must have certain standards, as well as have programs implemented to help conservation efforts for animals. All zoos in the United States must follow regulations by the US Department of Agriculture, but the AZA has more regulations above those standards. Below is a set of links to learn more, including two for the AZA, one being a set of statistics. Stone Zoo and Franklin Park Zoo are both accredited through AZA.

Although CAPS makes an argument against zoos in terms of education, education can also be an argument for zoos. This is the only way that people may see some of these animals. Zoos provide a place for the public to be exposed to animals and to learn about what human encroachment is doing to these animals and their natural environments. Accredited zoos have conservation programs to help maintain populations of species as hunting and destroyed environments have compromised the animals’ survival.

Zoos are a tricky subject and it is important to be informed. Use the links below to read articles or learn more about the subject and make up your own mind as to whether or not you support zoos. If you have any appropriate comments, questions, or concerns, feel free to post below.

The First-Year Student Outreach Project is excited to add on the Animals issue area to our programming and would like to educate ourselves and our volunteers.

Links:

Zookeeper killed by wolves in Sweden
http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/17/world/europe/sweden-zookeeper-killed/index.html?iref=allsearch

US Department
www.usda.gov

Association of Zoos and Aquariums
www.aza.org
http://www.aza.org/zoo-aquarium-statistics

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Definition of “Zoo”
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zoo

Zoo New England (Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo)
www.zoonewengland.org

Captive Animals’ Protection Society
http://www.captiveanimals.org/our-work/zoos

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