People love a trip to the zoo. It’s a lovely day out the whole family can enjoy, and your chance to get up close and personal with some of nature’s marvels. But should this really be the case? That thoughtful gorilla should be bestriding the mountainous forest of central Africa. Should animals really be kept in captivity, merely for our entertainment? That may be how zoos started; as places to show off the exotic creatures that explorers had caught and brought back from a far off land, but not so anymore.
Any zoo worth going to, i.e. those signed up to the principals laid down by organizations like EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), is concerned with the animals’ welfare. They are keen to educate their visitors and will invest a proportion of their outgoings (most are charitable now and not run for profit as they used to be) on preserving the habitat of animals in the native land and where populations are severely depleted. Captive breeding programs should even be able to boost the wild population as has been the case for species like Przewalski’s wild horse, the black-footed ferret and the California Condor even if these success stories are exceptional, but just as many species fail to be reintroduced to the wild for a multitude of reasons.