Animals living in zoos can be a good thing depending on the circumstances. They can be good for educational purposes. It gives children and families the opportunity to see how these amazing exotic creatures live and react to their surroundings. There have been many studies to back up the fact that people learn from seeing these animals in action, but there is much controversy in the way that it is done.
A study at the Edinburgh Zoo tracks visitors who enter a primate exhibit ‘Living Links to Human Evolution Research Centre’ in the Edinburgh Zoo. The exhibit is outfitted with a behavioral research center, and on many occasions researchers are present and working with the primates. The study aimed to determine if watching the researchers had any impact on visitor experience.
The study followed visitors and measured their dwell time in the primate exhibit, in the presence and absence of primate researchers. They found that visitor dwell time increased in correlation to presence of researchers. Bowler and colleagues claim that “…parents were often seen explaining the research to their children … what was happening in the research room.” But are visitors simply drawn by the “activity” (as opposed to passive viewing)? How do we know if the research observation is translated in education?
Another study aimed to identify the effect of animal demonstrations and of interpreters (the docent equivalent in zoos and aquariums). With a similar approach, Anderson et al. followed visitors and measured dwell time on Zoo Atlanta’s Asian small-clawed otter exhibit. In this study, researchers also surveyed visitors before and after they entered the exhibit. The survey attempted to find out if visitors’ perceptions of otters changed after their visit. Did they actually learn?
Zookeepers and interpreters were present in the otter exhibit. They talked to the public about the otters, and showed their natural behaviors through demonstrations (see section about demonstrations below). Some visitors were offered a sea otter demonstration, a demonstration accompanied by interpretation (albeit read from a script), and some were not offered demonstration or interpretation (i.e. signs only). The study attempted to measure the effects of interpreters, animal demonstrations, and signs on visitor learning. They determined that the visitors spent an average of two minutes passively strolling the exhibit (i.e. with signs only and no human presence), compared with six minutes when animal demonstration was taking place, and eight minutes for animal demonstration plus interpreter. The survey results indicate that visitors preferred to watch the demonstrations. By comparing pre- and post-visit questionnaires, researchers believe that “visitors attending an animal demonstration retained large amounts of the content material weeks after having attended the animal demonstration.”(“The Role of the Zoo in Education and Conservation.” PLOS Ecology Community, 15 Mar. 2013, blogs.plos.org/scied/2013/03/11/zoo-education/.)
This means that most people do learn from seeing the animals, but only if they are presented and showed off by people after they've been trained to do something on command. The controversy comes in when people try to train or demonstrate a wild animal like its a domesticated house pet. Although there are negatives to the demonstrations for the animals, there are some positives for the people.
The animals in these zoos don’t have to worry or fight for their food because the zoos staff is supposed to be properly taking care of them based on their individual needs. However there was a case of a bear who starved to death because it was not properly taken care of. In the Toledo zoo there was a rare bear that the staff didn’t know how to take care of. They thought she was pregnant and would be entering a near hibernation state, but she was actually starving and becoming more dehydrated by the day. They also weren’t properly monitoring her, this means that not only did they not know how to properly care for this animal, they didn’t even record her behavior to try and learn how to take care of her. This doesn’t mean that all zoos neglect their animals, most are actually well kept and trained but in this case the Toledo zoo wasn’t. Zoos can also be a safe haven for animals that are endangered, or are losing their environments.
Zoos can be safer for some animals because their natural predators are not around to injure or kill them. They may also have enclosures that resemble their natural environments closely to replace the ones that were destroyed by people, pollution, and natural disasters. But there have been cases of animals being brought back from endangerment because of their captivity in zoos. Some animals that were brought back are the Arabian Oryx, California Condor, Bongo and many more.
Although zoos have brought these animals back; should they really still be in cages.Some of these animals are locked in cages when they are meant to be out and roaming free. It's been proven to have caused depression and anxiety in certain animals like the whales in Seaworld or how some birds obsessively pluck their own feathers out. There can be a lot of other factors that cause an animal to be unhappy in their captivities such as; loss of family or companions, loss of their freedom, to much stress, and abuse that may occur in some zoos. There are South American penguins in the Sea Life Centre in Britain who are given anti-depressants for the cold winter months to try and stop them from being so miserable. These penguins are naturally meant for a hot environment in summer and a wet one in winter. They're not meant for Britains freezing temperatures, so why keep these birds in a enclosure that is obviously not suited for them. Another issue with zoos is the lack of respect for wild life.
People that go to zoos may not always be respectful of the animals that live there. They may taunt them, enter their enclosures, or throw food at them. If someone may be endanger because of entering the cage; it's the animal that gets punished. Zoos also may try their best to make the enclosure suitable to that animals habitat but it will never be the real thing. There can be many causes to an animals unhappy behavior and as people we should try to do whats best for them and create new regulations.
Autorbanieczka92. “Keeping Animals in Zoos Has Both Advantages and Disadvantages.” Sciaga.pl, sciaga.pl/tekst/108262-109-keeping-animals-in-zoos-has-both-advantages-and-disadvantages.
“Crystal Lombardo.” Vittana.org, 31 May 2017, vittana.org/21-pros-and-cons-of-zoos.
Dasgupta, Shreya. “Earth - Many Animals Can Become Mentally Ill.” BBC News, BBC, 9 Sept. 2015, www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150909-many-animals-can-become-mentally-ill.
“History & Timeline.” Minnesota Zoo, mnzoo.org/us/history-timeline/.
Rawlinson, Kevin. “Rain-Lashed Penguins at Scarborough Sanctuary given Antidepressants.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 6 Feb. 2014, www.theguardian.com/world/the-northerner/2014/feb/06/penguins-prescribed-antidepressants-scarborough-rain.
Taronga Conservation Society Australia. “10 Endangered Species Saved from Extinction by Zoos.” Medium.com, Medium, 19 May 2017, medium.com/taronga-conservation-society-australia/10-endangered-species-saved-from-extinction-by-zoos-682c454d0125.
“The Role of the Zoo in Education and Conservation.” PLOS Ecology Community, 15 Mar. 2013, blogs.plos.org/scied/2013/03/11/zoo-education/.
“Zoo Bear's Death Is Laid to Mistakes.” The Blade, www.toledoblade.com/Print-Furniture/2000/12/14/Zoo-bear-s-death-is-laid-to-mistakes/stories/200012140023.