Last week I took the fam to the San Diego Zoo. If only it weren't a two hour drive, I'd live there. It's a full day's excursion.
Many people don't like the thought of zoos. Their arguments:
- Animals shouldn't be caged behind bars and glass.
Because this is true, many zoos have switched from caged to open enclosures, the only things keeping you from becoming dinner are a small fence and a moat. Many exhibits use glass so you can get up close to the animal. Not only is this for your protection, but the animal's as well. Unfortunately, there are those halfwits out there who behave improperly at zoos - throwing garbage into exhibits, taunting the animals (see that whole San Fran Zoo debacle), etc.
- Zoos shouldn't interfere with natural selection. If pandas can only breed one day a year, that's nature leading them to extinction.
Yes, some animals have tighter conditions regarding reproduction, but in most cases, natural selection isn't weeding out the species. Species are being wiped out due to habitat loss. You can blame that on us humans. Deforestation for homes and farmland, overfishing, hunting for skins and oils - none of that is due to natural selection. The only way to keep some of these species alive is through the SSP in zoos and reserves. Zoos provide more than a day of entertainment - their focus is on saving these animals and educating us on why biodiversity is important.
- Animals should live in their natural habitat and run free.
This is a wonderful thought. In a utopian world, definitely. But as long as humans are around - it ain't gonna happen. See above.
- Zoos are corporations that make a profit off of the unhappiness of its residents.
First of all, at a good zoo, the animals live a better life than you and I, my friend. They're aren't unhappy. Second, a profit? Zoos are nonprofit organizations. Though some zoos, very few actually, receive state funding, zoos rely primarily on donations to remain open, along with any money they make from admissions and concessions stands. After paying the employees, which I can say from first-hand experience is minimal, all monies received go towards animal feed, medical care, repairs, landscaping, and improving exhibits. Not a dime can be wasted. For more information on nonprofits, check out CharityNavigator.org.
Moral of the story - if you live by a AZA-accredited zoo, stop by, make your donation, and learn a little something. And say hi to the tigers for me.