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Zoos - appropriate to the species and contemporary

Are zoos useful and timely? Pro & Con

Do zoos make sense and are they still up to date? This question is more than justified, at the latest after the fire in the monkey house at Krefeld Zoo, in which 50 animals died in agony.₁ And is keeping animals in zoos in confined spaces at all species-appropriate? It's time we compared the pros and cons and considered whether keeping animals in zoos is still necessary today.

In this article, I would like to explain the reasons for the existence of zoos and the serious disadvantages. You will also find out which alternatives to zoos are possible.

Here is another short Table of contents for you:

  1. Advantages
  2. Disadvantages
  3. Alternatives
  4. Closing words

Why might it make sense to keep animals in zoos?

Zoos Pro and Con - Sensible?
A lion is kept in a few square meters at Nuremberg Zoo / © PETA Deutschland e.V.

It is important to first understand why zoos are so popular in our society and what purpose they serve. Here I will therefore present some of the pro arguments for keeping animals in zoos that are often mentioned. If it's easy for me, I'll also write a possible counter-argument to explain why zoos might no longer be up to date.

Imparting knowledge about animals

We are supposed to learn more about wild animals in lectures or through information boards and films. However, animals do not behave as they would in the wild in a cramped zoo. This could create a false image.

Promoting species conservation

Zoos are intended to act as a kind of catch basin for later reintroduction into the wild and to provide the species extinction counteract this. Nevertheless, animals lose their natural instincts in zoos, making it difficult or impossible to release them into the wild. The term "live animals of wild species for the purpose of display" from Section 42 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act shows that keeping animals in zoos actually has a different purpose.

Awakening enthusiasm for animals

Many people, especially in big cities, only see a few animals in their everyday lives. In zoos, they can see elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, sharks, moray eels and many other wild animals. Zoos can thus increase enthusiasm for nature and the animal world. This can possibly encourage more people to visit, Actively help animals in everyday life.

Children get to know animals

Zoos have the advantage that children can get to know animals close to where they live. However, animals in captivity are more likely to be misbehaved, which could give the wrong impression. There are also alternatives to zoos, which I will introduce to you in a moment.

Lucrative entertainment business

Zoos are commercial enterprises that create jobs and must therefore be profitable. The animals in the zoo should entertain people and bring a smile to their faces. Unfortunately, this often leads to the phenomenon that zoos breed more animals than they can accommodate. The new polar bear cub attracts an above-average number of visitors.

Zoo animals for research purposes

Zoos also have the purpose of facilitating research on animals that are actually wild. Much of what we know about wild animals today comes from observations and studies of zoo animals. However, as animals in zoos cannot behave in the same way as they would in the wild, the opportunities for research are very limited.

Notice: This article is a discussion about "whether zoos are still up to date". I therefore take a particularly critical view of the PRO side. Feel free to add further arguments in favor of zoos in the comments.

Why might zoos no longer be up to date?

There are around 300 large and medium-sized zoos and animal enclosures in Germany.₂ However, the advantages of zoos have already shown that the purpose of their existence has largely become obsolete. We should determine whether zoos are still up to date based on the severity of the disadvantages and consequences. I will now present these to you.

Cruelty to animals in zoos

Cheetahs can't sprint, elephants can't walk. However, cruelty to animals is not only to be viewed critically when keeping animals in zoos because wild animals have too little space there and cannot be kept in a species-appropriate manner. Animals are also forced to perform tricks to entertain zoo visitors. For example, baby elephants are tortured with so-called "elephant hooks" so that they leave marks.₆ Animals in zoos therefore suffer physical pain.

Animals in the zoo are defenseless

For one thing, wild animals have no choice. They are stunned in the wild and locked up in the zoo. Secondly, they are defenceless in their enclosures in the event of disasters such as the fire at Krefeld Zoo.

Zoochose: Animals in captivity display psychotic behavioral disorders. Polar bears, for example, run in circles and elephants make the typical bobbing motion with their heads. This is a psychological pain that the emotional animals suffer.

Animals are snatched from wilderness

Many animal species are unable to reproduce in captivity and under poor husbandry conditions. Therefore, inbreeding is often necessary to increase the zoo population, which can lead to deformities. As long as they exist, zoos will therefore always "take" animals from the wild.

Zoo animals pose a danger to employees

Time and again, zoo staff are injured or killed by wild animals following their natural instincts due to human error.₃ If wild animals lived where they belonged, they could act on their hunting instinct for antelopes or buffalo.

Zoos also kill healthy animals

If a zoo simply has too many animals and cannot accommodate them all, healthy animals are also killed. This is called population management. For example, the killing of the young giraffe Marius at Copenhagen Zoo₄ or the secret killing of two Sunda oxen at Hellabrunn Zoo₅ caused a worldwide stir.

Besides, zoos are also pretty expensive, don't you think? Can you think of any other arguments against zoos? Then feel free to write me a comment under this post.

If zoos don't make sense - what are the alternatives?

So for us humans, there are above all moral reasons to ban animals in zoos. Whether or not zoos are up-to-date and sensible should ultimately also depend on the possible alternatives that allow us to get our money's worth and bring children closer to the animal world. Here are some examples that can offer the advantages of zoos without the serious disadvantages:

  • Wildlife parks: There are numerous wildlife parks and game reserves in Germany that combine nature and environmental protection with genuine nature experiences and large-scale, species-appropriate animal husbandry. In the Schorfheide Wildlife Park in the north of Berlin, for example, you can observe elk, red deer, bison and even lynx.
  • Mercy farms: So-called life farms lovingly rescue and house (farm) animals that would otherwise have been slaughtered or euthanized. Whether dogs, pigs, cows, horses or chickens. Throughout Germany, you can build real connections with animals that behave completely naturally.
  • High Seats: Few things are more exciting than watching the evening activity of Germany's native animals from a high seat. Simply ask foresters and hunters about the use of their high seats and for recommendations for certain times with a high chance of success.
  • Walks: Isn't it just so much more exciting to observe animals in their natural behavior by chance? You also have the chance to do this on normal walks over hill and dale.

Can you think of any other alternatives for zoos? Then just write me a comment. I will gladly take up your ideas.

Conclusion: do zoos make sense and are they still up to date?

After my research, I am certain: No, zoos are neither sensible nor up-to-date. I prefer to avoid zoo visits and use the sensible alternatives to seek contact with animals that are kept in a truly species-appropriate way. I therefore use honest and contemporary arguments to persuade friends and acquaintances to stop going to zoos. In the end, however, everyone has to decide for themselves whether keeping animals in zoos is appropriate and ethically justifiable.

What do you think about zoos? Do you consider zoos to be contemporary and useful, or not? Feel free to write me a comment under this article.

Stay animal-friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: Look with pleasure times in the animal welfare blog over! There you can find recommendations for Documentaries about factory farming and make up your own mind about it.

₁ V. Arnold; M. Lippl; et al: Affenhaus in Krefeld: Shocking details about the fire disaster on New Year's Eve (as at: 19.02.2020), available at [01.04.2020].

₂ Wikimedia Foundation Inc: Zoo in Germany, available at [01.04.2020].

₃ AXEL SPRINGER SE; BILD: Zoo director: "It happened in a flash" (as of 20.09.2013), available at " [01.04.2020].

₄ THE GUARDIAN: Marius the giraffe killed at Copenhagen zoo despite worldwide protests (as of 09.02.2014), available at [01.04.2020].

₅ M. Bernstein; Süddeutsche Zeitung: This is why the young Banteng bulls had to die, available at [01.04.2020].

₆ PETA Deutschland e.V.: Hanover Zoo tortures baby elephants (as of April 2018), available at [01.04.2020].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

5 thoughts on “Sind Zoos sinnvoll und zeitgemäß? Pro & Contra”

  1. Hello, thank you for your thoughts.
    I don't think you can look at it in such black and white terms. Almost all the points mentioned can be broken down to the question of how. And the problem is that zoos have to be economically profitable - a purely capitalistic problem.
    If zoos were taken out of the free market, their operation reformed, and presumably their numbers limited (300 zoos? Wow, I didn't know that. Probably 10 would be easy enough for Germany), it would be possible to create an approximately species-appropriate environment. That means above all: larger enclosures, no overbreeding and no more animal shows.
    What you say is true, of course, cheetahs want to sprint and elephants want to hike. For this they need much more space.
    But you also have to look at the animal species in a more differentiated way. For example, I believe that crocodiles or snakes will generally have fewer problems with the size of their terrariums.
    The alternatives you mentioned are unfortunately no real substitute. Sure, it's nice to see animals in their natural environment. But while waiting for the deer, most children will soon lose their patience and thus their interest in the animal. Sitting at the edge of the forest for hours without anything exciting happening doesn't beat mobile games, unfortunately. Apart from that, the animal experience is "only" limited to the usual forest dwellers, even if the game is successful. Who has the money to fly to Kenya for a safari? (in addition, there would also be the flight emissions).
    Unfortunately, some animal species can only be seen in zoos. But zoos should definitely have to look less at profit and focus more on education and research.

    1. Hello Moritz! I prefer to ask myself the question of IF, rather than HOW. There are certainly animal species that can cope with smaller enclosures. But why do we humans take the right to confine and "exhibit" animals at all? Our children get to know animals in a different way. Certainly not in the same way, but in an animal-friendly way.

      Many greetings

    2. Thank you for your great suggestions for critical thinking. I used to think zoos were great. Now I'm wondering whether we really still need them. Yes, it's fun to look at all the different animals. But at what price. If you imagine being in their place yourself, it would be traumatizing without end. Yes, you might bring it closer to children. But shouldn't children be taught how to handle animals properly?
      Thank you for this comparison of the arguments. I think it is still very widespread that zoos are not so bad.

  2. Hello Christoph,
    I am torn, as a child I loved the zoo very much, now I have a more critical attitude. What I find difficult about your contribution is the generalization. From individual cases you make "In the zoo healthy animals are killed" or "In the zoo animal babies are tortured" and also your alternatives, instead of seeing a tiger itself, one should simply sit on a high seat (which is unfortunately not permitted so easily), do not work for me.

    I don't think zoos should be banned. They provide, if they are really concerned about the animals, an educational basis, contributions to species conservation and a nice destination for excursions. Only they should not exhibit all the animals of the world, but those to which they can offer adequate living conditions.

    Love greetings

    1. Moin Christoph, thank you for your comment! Of course, not every zoo acts so brutally, but it can never be excluded - and closing animals is also morally questionable.

      The zoo may be a nice destination for you - but it's not nice for the caged animals. And there are better ways to educate yourself about exotic wildlife than to see them in a non-natural environment.

      Can you name me one animal that finds "adequate living conditions" in a zoo?

      "Zoo-yes-or-no" is definitely an emotional topic. I look forward to your response and have a great week.

      Best regards

      PS: Going to the high seat is not allowed, but you can ask for permission. As a rule, it works out 🙂

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