Are zoos and public aquariums harmful to animals?

At some point in our life, we all went to zoos and aquariums to see the animals and if we
did not, we wished that we went there at least once. Why, though? Why do people go to those
places? Is it ethical? Is it out of enjoyment? Or is it for educational purposes? Whatever the case
may be, the animals in the zoos and aquariums have an issue which is being captive to fulfill the
interest and the needs of the visitors in a case that people watch them out of enjoyment. Have
you ever thought about being in their shoes? Where you are held in a small cage and have to act
in a certain way to entertain the audience? We all love animals and that is part of human nature,
but the fact that we get too greedy is not a good thing. Why do we have to capture animals from
the wild place and keep them in a cage where the species that are there are the same, but from
different areas from the same species? Just like how international students have a hard time
fitting into a new environment, it is the same for those animals. Since this is a controversial
topic, I will be talking about both sides of why some people might think zoos and aquariums are
good for animals while others do not. Most of my points will be directed toward why zoos and
aquariums are harmful to animals. Zoos and aquariums bring more harm to animals than good
because the animal behavior changes, the trainers are at risk, the space is not sufficient, and it is
bad for their health.


Have you ever thought about what happens when captive animals are released into the
wild and the sea? They die immediately, Why? It is because they are not used to living outside
the zoo. Once they are released, they can’t behave the same way the wild animals do because of
captivity, they have less chance of surviving. According to National Geographic, they wrote an
article about “Most Captive-Born Predators Die If Released” and in this article, they mentioned
how animals do not have “ the natural behaviors needed for succession in the wild” which is true
because they were never taught how to hunt (Owen). It is going to be hard for them to find their
own food because when they were in the zoos, the workers were producing food and taking care
of them while they were stuck in small cages. They also talked about how animals die because of
vehicle collisions. Some animals are aware of these cars, but the ones that are in zoos will have
little knowledge. Animals in captivity do not have the same ability as other animals who don’t
live in zoos or aquariums. Because they got used to humans, they forgot how to act naturally and
lost control of their actual life. The odds of these animals surviving in the wild are really low.
This is why zoos have disadvantages for these animals.

As much as zoos are fun, there is a lot that happens behind where the trainers have to go
through training even though they are aware of the dangerousness behind this job. There is a risk
to zookeepers and trainers as they take care of the animals. We can all agree that wild animals do
not belong in captivity and here is the reason why. This tragic event happened in 2010 at
SeaWorld in Florida where a “male killer whale” attacked the training by “pulling her into the
water” and killed her by drawing(Parsons, 153). Another tragic story was when Ali Khan who
was a snake charmer was bitten by a cobra which was one of the snakes he trained, he was
rushed to the hospital and died after three days( Hamilton, Malaysia’s ‘Snake King’ Killed by
Cobra). There are many stories like these where the trainers suffered a lot due to animal attacks
and according to Hamilton who wrote about Malaysia’s ‘Snake King’ Killed by Cobra said that
some reason why animals would attack the trainers might be out of fear or food. If this is the
case, we can prove that it is better to keep the wild animals in their natural habitat area where


they act naturally and hunt on their own. This way, both animals and humans will be safe. Even
though some animals are intelligent, isn’t it wrong to assume that animals will behave like them?
It takes a while for animals to get used to the environment. Most of the animals are assigned to

Just like humans get bored easily if they stay in the same area for a really long time, it is
the same for animals. An article that I came across argued that “Animals develop physical tics
just like humans” when they get bored (Young). Young mentioned in his article Arturo who is a
polar bear at Mendoza Zoo in Argentina and this bear has been doing unusual behavior like
“pacing up and down while swinging his head from side to side” due to the poor welfare he is in.
Some studies show that the brain of certain animals changes that cause such behavior which is
also similar to when we humans are depressed when we act a certain way that is different from
usual. If you ever went to a zoo, you might have seen animals picking their skin or hair plucking
and that is due to distress. Unlike if they are in the wild, they have freedom and a lot of space,
where they can find their species to play with.


Zoos and aquariums attract humans, especially little children because they will see
animals that they have never seen before. Some studies argue that it is for humans to understand
the different behaviors animals have which will benefit the animals in the future. Mcelroy wrote
a case study that was about “The role of zoos in educating visitors about conservation of wildlife
and habitats” and in this study, he touched on zoos educating the visitor which they learn more
about “animal welfare” and “biodiversity”. (pg. 6) Another key point he mentioned was how
zoos change the way people think about the wildlife and how some animals are trained to evoke


different human emotions and how these effects can have a huge impact on humans. (pg. 6). But
isn’t it impacting the other way around? Because we are relying on animals to help our emotions,
what if they attack you? Isn’t creating this idea that wild animals are not that dangerous? Some
people might think that whatever they see in zoos and aquariums are the same in the ocean and
the wildlife. They will put their guard down and once that happens, some might get attacked and
their life is in danger.

Some zoos are part of SSP( Special survival plan programs) which are designed for
animals whose population is decreasing. Some scholars might say that because a lot of animals
are becoming extinct, we have to capture them to keep them safe and help them grow more. But
in most cases, these programs do more harm than they bring food. For example, the article “ Is
breeding endangered species in captivity the right way to go?” talked about how some
zookeepers are trying to reproduce more of the Asiatic lion because their population went down
to 17.5 individuals. As they said in the article, sometimes the plan doesn’t go the way these
programs want and an example of that can be in 2002, “an effort to crossbreed the species with
African lions was abandoned after 30 of the animals died from a mysterious disease, and dozens
more appeared to be suffering from the same affliction.”( Palmer) which then led to isolating the
lions until they died. This is the inhumanity with us that once the thing is no longer useful to us,
we throw it away. This is the ethical part I want to convey in this essay and I believe that this
would not have happened to them if they were not in the zoo.


Not only do those animals feel stress, but they are also traumatized and it messes up their
mental state. We think that it is okay to pet animals because they like it, but sometimes these can
be really stressful to animals. An article that was published by National Geographic said that
when visitors pet, stroke, kiss, cuddle or when humans “surf” on the back of dolphins and make
elephants “paint pictures with their trunks” are experiences we assume are okay for animals, but
these are what cause stresses to animals and traumatized them. Just for the sake of entertainment,
they are making the animals do things that they are not used to, and because of that sudden
change, they go through a mental state. Giving them food whether it is okay for them to eat or
not. The point I’m trying to cross is that they mistreat the animals and they don’t give enough attention to them. For example, in the article Zoos: the life of Animals in captivity, “Chata ”, a
baby lion got really sick and died without getting any medical care and this was due to the abuse
she received at the zoos. If they had paid attention to the animals, they could have prevented this
from happening.
There are times when capturing animals is fine and that is if they are rescued from dying.
For example, a baby cub tiger came to a village after his mom was killed by poachers where they
took the tiger to the site to treat the injuries she got from the dog attacks( The Siberian Times). If
they had left that little tiger, it would have died right away, but they saved her life. These are the
cases when it is okay to capture because they don’t have places to go.

Zoos and aquariums are not good for animals and they don’t get anything out of it but harm.
Humans are greedy and because of money, they are ruining the lives of these animals. Just like I
explained in this paper, the conditions of the animals get severe as they are held in cages which
mess up their natural habitat.

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