Originally Posted by adam antichrist
Are you aware that not all zoos keep animals in tiny cages?
I think what I'm getting out of this conversation is that I was very lucky at the age of 8 to go to a zoo where the animals are given heaps of space, it wasn't depressing like a city zoo and they happen to have some of the most successful captive breeding programs in the world. I guess most people didn't have that opportunity.
I would put money on the assumption that the big enclosures you saw did not allow the inhabitant/s expression of natural behaviour. The problem is not always space, it's just the problem that zoo critics are most aware of.
I had to go to a zoo in Kent for the first year of my uni course. We all had to pick a species and do a behaviour observation. I chose to do mine on the capybaras, because I love capybaras. They had a large enclosure of grass and indoor space with bedding materials. It was a pleasant enclosure and the general public would probably think it was just fine. But do you know what they didn't have? A body of water. They had a drinking bowl, sure, but no pond or any water deep enough to submerge in. And capybaras are semi-aqueous: in the wild, they spend MOST of their time in the water. They go in the water when they are scared, threatened or stressed, and it helps them cope. This enclosure was not meeting their needs at all, even though it was adequately roomy.
My friend did hers on the elephants, and I went to see how she was getting on. They had a very big enclosure indeed. The part next to the path was concrete with large shelters, then there was a gate that led to a slope of grassland. But the only form of enrichment they had was a few tree branches scattered around the concrete area.
One thing to remember about enclosure design is you can build one a square mile large, but if the animal only uses the area around his food bowls and enrichment objects you might as well put him in a battery cage. Smaller enclosures can sometimes be better, in terms of welfare, than larger ones. But no matter how large a zoo enclosure is, it is never going to be enough. Most of the larger animals in zoos would travel miles and miles in the course of a day. Expanding their enclosure by a few square metres makes very little difference to their behavioural needs.
But the fact remains that a zoo enclosure can never mimic natural conditions for a wild animal. 'Naturalistic' enclosures are designed to look like the animal's habitat to a human. Do you think a snake in a rainforest vivarium is really fooled that she's in the rainforest? She's not. It doesn't smell right, it doesn't taste right, it doesn't feel like home.
Originally Posted by amaroque
Just playing devil's advocate here but does anyone think that zoo's at least enlighten the public to the diversity of life on Earth outside of one's own little world? I mean can you see any good to at least showing people that it's not just
our planet but we share it with others?
I think that would be a good message to send out.
Originally Posted by The Lurker
I think there are a lot of zoos that should be closed down unless a real justification can be made for keeping them open - the model should be based on conservation and rehabilitation (just like sanctuaries).