Profit before protection
Captive animals are treated as commodities
When no longer needed, animals may be sold or loaned by a zoo with complete disregard for those species for whom forming strong bonds is important to their general wellbeing. Being moved to unfamiliar surroundings, new social groups and new keepers can all be very traumatic for the animals, as in the wild many species remain in their groups or families for life.
Some zoos claim that their animals act as ambassadors for their species and raise funds to help those in the wild. Whilst this may sound good, in reality it does not add up. London Zoo spent 3.3 million pounds on building a tiger enclosure. Less than 1/10th of the money they received was donated to help tigers in Indonesia. Whilst zoos exist, they need to prioritise the welfare of animals over profit. Many people do care about conserving endangered species but the best way is to help directly by supporting organisations that work to preserve wild animals, not going via zoos, which can profit from exploiting people’s good intentions.
Zoos breed animals since babies attract the public, push up ticket sales, and increase gift shop profits from the sale of cute toys. However, what happens when the babies grow up? Zoos are known to kill animals they no longer deem profitable or ‘useful’, or simply because they do not have the facilities to house them.
The Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) for zoos across Australasia refused to provide us with statistics on this issue, but the New Zealand Code of Welfare for zoos states that animals may be euthanised for a number of reasons including when there is over-representation of a particular sex or genetic line, when there are unwanted pregnancies and when there is a lack of accommodation (Animal Welfare (Zoos) Code of Welfare 2005. Page 30). The method of killing can also be called into question; for example, there have been allegations from staff about unwanted cubs being killed with rocks at Zion Wildlife Gardens (now known as "Kingdom of Zion" or "Kamo Wildlife Sanctuary").
When Marius the giraffe was killed at a Danish zoo in 2014, despite several offers of a new home, people were horrified, but in Europe alone more than 5,000 healthy animals are killed in zoos each year. By visiting zoos, people are unwittingly contributing to this cycle that sees animals routinely killed.