first zoo begins with the idea that animals exist to be the source of
entertainment for humans. It excites people to see these wild and exotic
animals, although they are locked in cages. As time goes by, zoo changes its
purpose from merely a recreational place to an educational site. These
“education tool” claim result in controversy, especially because it
is not only incorrect but also misleading considering its negative educational
and foremost, it is naive to even believe that the animals displayed in the zoo
really are wild animals. Since it is illegal to capture wild animals and
display them in public, the animals that are actually displayed in the zoos are
“the lineage of once-wild animals that were captured and then thrown into
an enclosed space” (Kantamneni). Kantamneni explains that since these
animals have long left their natural habitats, they also have lost their natural
behavior. It is so fatal that if they were to return to their natural habitat,
they would not survive. This raises a question on what people are expected to
learn from the animals now that they no longer posseses their natural behavior.
These once wild-animals are now just pets, meaning going to the zoo would
basically be the same as going to a local animal shelter.
addition, people do not see zoo as an educational area. Even though in each
enclosure there is an information label, “most visitors do not read the
labels attached to these enclosures, which indicates that there is very little
educational information being conveyed” (DeMello, 111). For Kantamneni, this
is not a problem since she herself doubt the reliability of the information
given, saying “Facts about their diet,
environment in the wild, size and life expectancy are a given. But how much can
they write about natural behaviors, or rather do these animals even exhibit
truly natural behavior?” (Kantamneni). To conclude, a research by Stephen
Kellert suggest that zoogoers remain poorly educated about animals and the
major message for many is that humans are superior to other animals (qtd. in DeMello).
This research by Kellert proves that a visit to the zoo changes people mindset
in a negative way. The idea of superiority implied one’s arrogance, meanwhile
learning animals’ behavior should’ve resulted in compassion towards other beings.
people may argue that zoo is a great place to learn about wild animals specifically
because the animals are real. The act of seeing real animals hopefully provokes
real empathy and curiosity towards the animal. Gerald Iles said, “all my zoo elephants were different from each other,
and each one leaves me with a different memory” (qtd. in Russo). It implies that
a visit to the zoo produces empathy towards animals and realization of their
need to be treated as beings. This statement is further supported by Jake Page
who stated: “It is difficult to be concerned about the fate of an animal
you have never seen… The usual response to such a real-life sight–whether in
a zoo or in the wild– is emotional” (qtd. in Russo). However, these
arguments can be countered by restating what was previously written in the
second and third paragraph. First, the so-called real animals that exist in the
zoo are just the domesticated version of what used to be a wild animal.
Therefore, if one felt a deep empathy towards it, it would be the same as if
one felt empathy towards a dog which was taken away from their family and held
captive alongside with other animals which were also held captive for humans’ amusement.
Second, with the fact that the average visitors barely read the labels attached
to each enclosure, it is best to ask whether the emotional outcome really is
from visiting the zoo and looking at the animals in real life and whether a
photograph or a video of these animals would produce the same outcome.
To put it short, a trip to the zoo does not benefit
people with any educational outcome since the animals are no longer wild and
people barely read the information label explaining their status. It means that
zoo is still built as a source of entertainment by holding animals in captive.
DeMello, Margo. Animals and Society: an
Introduction to Human-Animal Studies. Columbia University Press, 2012.
Kantamneni, Visala. “Top 5 Misleading Claims Zoos Make.” One Green Planet,
21 Feb. 2014,
Russo, Cristina. “Can
You Worry about an Animal You’ve Never Seen? The Role of the Zoo in Education
and Conservation.” Sci-Ed, 11 Mar. 2013, blogs.plos.org/scied/2013/03/11/zoo-education/.