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Student Opinion: Zoos should be banned

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Do you think zoos are nice places for animals to live? If you do, think again. Zoos are actually harmful to animals. There are three main reasons why. First, zoos breed animals inhumanely. Second, they do not help animals return to the wild. Third, they do not take good enough care of the animals. For these reasons, zoos should be shut down and banned, or stopped altogether.

The first reason zoos should be banned is that they breed captive animals. Zoos breed animals so that they will have baby animals to show the public. Most zoo animals are born inside zoos. Many are raised without ever seeing their original, wild homes. When zoos have too many animals, they do not return them to the wild. They simply kill the "extra" animals.

Take this example from 2014. The Copenhagen Zoo is located in Denmark, a country in northern Europe. A giraffe there named Marius was raised as a baby in the zoo. He was loved by the public. Yet, when he became an adult, he was killed. The zoo's staff shot him. They didn't think he would be useful. They had other male giraffes they could breed instead of Marius.

Baby animals attract more visitors than older animals. Killing an adult animal opens up space and resources to bring in a younger animal. That animal can draw bigger crowds and more money. That is the real reason Marius was killed. The zoo made less money as he grew up. People were more interested in Marius when he was a baby than when he became an adult.

The second reason zoos should be banned is that they rarely help endangered animals return to their original habitats. A report by National Geographic found that most zoos do not have any contact with reintroduction programs.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a nonprofit organization that fights for animal rights. According to them, fewer than one-fifth of the animals in United States zoos are actually endangered. When an animal species is endangered, it is at risk of dying out completely. Zoos spend tons of money building enclosures for animals. Yet, they do almost nothing to restore wild habitats or to stop poaching in wild environments.

Finally, zoos simply do not have enough resources to properly house the creatures that live there. Wild habitats cannot be remade in spaces where animals are held captive. An opinion article called "All the Reasons Why Zoos Should Be Banned" was published by Vice in 2015. It said polar bears in zoos have up to 18,000 times less space than they do in the wild.

Animals cannot be healthy in zoos. Seventy-five percent of elephants kept in zoos are overweight, according to the article. Forty percent of lion cubs pass away before their full life span. This data supports the argument that zoos do not have the resources to support animals' well-being, health and populations. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) has reported that around 3,000 to 5,000 animals are killed each year in zoos in Europe. Many more animals show signs of zoochosis. This is a psychological disorder observed in zoo animals that leads to pacing, bar biting and other repeated behaviors.

Zoos should make an effort to reintroduce the animals they own into natural habitats. Some could be returned to the wild. However, many zoo animals would not be able to survive in the wild. These animals should then be sent to sanctuaries where they can live peacefully.

Zoos inhumanely source and breed animals. They do little to improve wildlife populations. Zoos also do little to help the public understand their impact on wildlife. Also, they cannot provide what is needed to support animals' lives. Zoos should reintroduce their animals into the wild or into sanctuary settings. This will have the added benefit of relieving zoos of the burden of keeping these animals alive. Isn't that a win-win?

Megan Zhou is a sixth-grade student at Sycamore Ridge School in San Diego, California.


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