The subject of the rights or wrongs of zoos can be very emotive with many unbalanced views being put forward by people who have little real knowledge of zoos and their aims.

Should animals be kept in captivity when they could live in the wild?

There are three justifications for keeping animals in captivity;  these are conservation, breeding and education.

Zoos within WAZA receive around 600 million visitors every year, providing a great opportunity to educate the general public about wildlife and environmental issues.  London and Whipsnade zoos alone welcome 1.7 million visitors a year including many school groups.

Breeding programmes between zoos ensure that a population can grow and some of its members possibly reintroduced to the wild.  They are an insurance policy should numbers become critically low in the wild, and many of these schemes have been successful.  Zoos must collaborate to ensure that the genetic variety is maintained and avoid inbreeding.  Critics of zoos argue that in many cases animals are still kept for show without any intention of releasing them and that we cannot learn anything about the behaviour of wild animals when they are being kept in captivity.

Dolphins are highly social and intelligent animals and the ocean provides a very challenging and ever changing and stimulating environment for them, which is by no means replicated in a small pool with chlorinated water.  The Born Free Foundation, argues that these are stressful conditions for the dolphins and the aquariums should be closed down.  They believe that keeping animals in captivity cannot be justified from an animal welfare or a species protection point of view.  They are especially critical of zoos which do not breed endangered species and do not protect wildlife in situ, in the wild, and do not have programmes to release them into the wild.  There are zoos such as London Zoo which do all of these things and share the Born Free Foundation’s aims of protecting animals in their natural habitats through educating and working with local communities.  However, the Born Free Foundation has been working towards its campaign called “Zoo Check” to phase out zoos, marine parks and animal circuses altogether.

Read More: Reintroducing Animals To The Wild

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