In the modern era, zoos have come under question for many things, one example being the validity and impacts of their conservation efforts. I hope to inform you about the deception of zoo agendas and how they cause more harm than good for their animals.
How much do zoos spend on their animals? This may seem like a ridiculous question, since zoos are supposed to, in essence, protect and help animals, the amount of money and time that goes into preserving animal species is much less than it initially seems.
Zoos are one of the most prominent ways animals are conserved in the modern age. They are critical to the survival of many species, such as tigers, which have a higher population in captivity than in the wild, and which without such efforts would have declining populations, as “Estimates put the captive tiger population at private hands. the US alone at 5,000. In tiger farms in China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam there are believed to be more than 8,000 more tigers.” (WWF). However, zoos have shown time and time again that their “efforts” to protect their species are minimal or non-existent. This is because, fundamentally, zoos, at the end of the day, are a business. So as long as their products, the animals, are good enough, they don’t have to lift a finger.
To begin with, the concept of conservation in zoos is drastically blown out of proportion, as efforts to preserve species are not as big as they seem. For example, according to Emma Marris of the New York Times, certain “AZA [Association of Zoos and Aquariums] The facilities report that they spend approximately $231 million a year on conservation projects. For comparison, in 2018 they spent $4.9 billion on operations and construction.” (New York Times).
While many zoos brag about their conservation efforts, they choose to hide or underemphasize other expenses. These operating and construction expenses, while significant, underscore the true goals of zoos. Again, zoos are a business, and when they’re trying to make the most profit, they wouldn’t want to spend huge amounts of money on conservation, which doesn’t make them much of a profit. The lack of transparency adds to the deception and lies of zoos in the modern age.
Furthermore, zoos create a dangerous future for their animals, as many of the species that reside almost entirely in zoos will not be able to survive in the wild. As mentioned above, there are more tigers in captivity than in the wild. This means that most future generations of tigers will only know life behind bars, crippling their ability to re-establish their life in the wild. According to the BBC, “Even a more humane zoo life will have left the animals too affected by years of a sheltered existence. Captive animals rarely learn crucial survival skills and are often too habituated to human contact.” (BBC). This makes efforts by zoos to maintain the species pointless, as if the species cannot exist in the wild, they are defeating the purpose of supporting them, further emphasizing that zoos only care about their business.
Still, while zoos have many benefits in protecting wild animals that would likely be in trouble if left alone, it’s all too easy to see through the “conservation” mirage. Given that the budget for their infrastructure is more than 20 times larger than the budget for conservation efforts, it is clear that the zoos’ interests lie elsewhere, as would any business. Zoos conserve their preservation budgets more than they conserve their species. To learn more about the direct and indirect mistreatment of animals by humans, read Julia Blake’s article on the damage done to polar bears by global warming.