My friends and I recently took our “heavy glass” to photograph at the Seneca Park Zoo. It was a bright sunny day, perfect for getting sharp pictures, even though the mid-day sun creates harsh contrast. The last time I was here was many years ago with our young nieces. How the time goes by.
Today’s zoos meet higher standards to keep their accreditation than in the past. The animals’ physical and emotional needs are better met.
Zoos often provide safe haven for injured and nearly extinct animals. Zoos are especially great for kids, particularly since fewer of them see animals in their natural habitats.
Still, I wonder when seeing the animals’ expressions, if they are happy being fenced in. Separated from their natural habitats, they are not free to roam, associate, and mate as evolution has shaped them. According to Wikipedia:
The welfare of zoo animals varies widely. Many zoos work to improve their animal enclosures and make it fit the animals’ needs, although constraints such as size and expense make it difficult to create ideal captive environments for many species.
A study examining data collected over four decades found that polar bears, lions, tigers and cheetahs show evidence of stress in captivity. Zoos can be internment camps for animals, but also a place of refuge. A zoo can be considered an internment camp due to the insufficient enclosures that the animals have to live in. When an elephant is placed in a pen that is flat, has no tree, no other elephants and only a few plastic toys to play with; it can lead to boredom and foot problems (Lemonic, McDowel, and Bjerklie 50).[full citation needed] Also, animals can have a shorter life span when they are in these types of enclosures. Causes can be human diseases, materials in the cages, and possible escape attempts (Bendow 382).[full citation needed] When zoos take time to think about the animal’s welfare, zoos can become a place of refuge. There are animals that are injured in the wild and are unable to survive on their own, but in the zoos they can live out the rest of their lives healthy and happy (McGaffin).[full citation needed] In recent years, some zoos have chosen to stop showing their larger animals because they are simply unable to provide an adequate enclosure for them (Lemonic, McDowell, and Bjerklie 50).