Education or Exploitation?
Zoos’ misleading education claims
Many zoos claim they provide education, rather than entertainment.
When zoos are marketed as educational, it is easier to forget that individual beings are being held in circumstances to which they are unsuited. Around the world, some zoos also force animals to perform tricks for the public, with no regard for how this might affect the animal.
Although the days of chimp tea parties at Auckland Zoo are long gone, they still advertise ’a walk with a cheetah‘ whereby customers can take these magnificent animals for a walk on a lead, Orana Wildlife Park offers various ‘meet and greets' with animals like giraffes and at Rotorua Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park lion cubs can be patted by visitors – something totally unnatural to them.
In truth, wild animals do not want to be bothered by humans.
Numerous studies, including those by the zoo industry itself, have shown that most visitors to a zoo take only a brief look at displays as they wander round, spending more time getting snacks or using the facilities or the gift shop.
Researchers have found that few visitors read more than the name of an animal on a sign, and fewer still remember much about the animals they saw, or feel motivated to help them in the wild.
Zoos promote an inaccurate image of animals
Animals in zoos are not representative of their species. Their behaviour is often far removed from that of their wild counterparts. In zoos animals can suffer from boredom, frustration and depression, and can even be driven insane. This teaches people very little about animal behaviour.
Lions in the wild do not spend half their time pacing; bears do not have their food handed to them; elephants do not live alone.
If zoos are teaching children anything, it is that capturing and imprisoning animals for our own entertainment is acceptable. With nature documentaries, the Internet and the relative ease of international travel, learning about or viewing animals in their natural habitats can be as simple as a click of a button or going for a walk.
Here in New Zealand we are fortunate to have incredible, unique wildlife practically on our doorsteps. Children will learn far more from getting outside and exploring and learning to be respectful of those animals they encounter than they ever could from seeing animals in zoos.