Keeping Animals in Zoos Is not Justifiable
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Keeping Animals in Zoos Not Justifiable
A debate that has recently been brought into focus in the public eye is that of
whether wild animals should be kept in aquariums, zoos, and other wildlife sanctuaries.
Recent tragedies, like the one at Sea World in Orlando, Florida, where a trainer was
dragged to her death by a whale, has increased continued scrutiny on the needs of wildlife
and how captivity hinders their physical and psychological well-being. Some argue that
animals in captivity provide a number of services for both the animal kingdom and
humans. Others contend that the benefits are small or can be achieved by some other
means. Indeed, when one examines the opinions in favor of keeping wild animals in
captivity, such as in a zoo, one finds that these arguments can be discounted with viable
alternatives that are more humane in the treatment of wild animals. In effect, keeping
animals in zoos is not justifiable.
One reason that zoos and wildlife sanctuaries are so popular is that they feed a
major tourist industry world-wide (Woods, 2002). Cities certainly do not want to lose
revenue by dismantling their zoos. In addition, they argue that zoos provide a way for the
public to view animals up close which they might never see in person otherwise. Zoo
officials also insist that animals in captivity are well cared for and are made comfortable
in natural-like settings. However, although the zoological industry goes to great expense
and trouble to provide animals with a simulation of a natural habitat, it is a costly and
time-consuming enterprise. Animals do not typically have access to vegetation. Dirt and
grass contain harmful bacteria, and animals do fight among themselves. Furthermore,
Woods (2012) cites some studies that indicate that the educational benefits of zoos are
minimal. Besides, animals tend to stay out of sight of humans if their zoological habitats
allow it. Furthermore, zoo animals suffer from freedom to move and to socialize.
Another argument for the existence of zoos is that they are ideally located for
scientific monitoring stations. Zoos network to collect and build up a collection of serum
banks and to develop medical record-keeping systems (McNamara, 2007). This has
proven extremely beneficial to identifying and monitoring the spread of deadly,
infectious diseases. For example, the West Nile Virus was first identified at a zoological
institution. Prior to the identity of the disease, wild crows began to die in the United
States from unknown causes. It was not until crows at a zoo began to die that the problem
was successfully identified. This virus threatens both animals and humans.
The United States General Accounting Office (GAO, 2000) noted the fact that
zoological institutions were instrumental in quickly identifying the virus, which brought
into focus the value of public and animal health agencies working together in partnership
in studying health issues for humans, domestic animals, wildlife, and animals in captivity.
Upon further investigation, GAO also noted that the zoo community was not an integral
part of the public health paradigm and that because zoological institutes were not within
the federal agency jurisdictions, the diagnosis of the West Nile Virus was much slower in
coming than might have otherwise been the case. The diseases that have followed the
West Nile Virus in the past decade, including a serious respiratory syndrome (SARS),
monkeypox, H5N1 avain influenza, have increased the pressure to fund and develop bio
surveillance capabilities. Because zoos routinely add to serum banks, tissue banks, and
maintain medical record-keeping systems, they are in a unique position to contribute
meaningfully to bio surveillance. Zoos tend to the needs individual animal on a daily
basis, so zoo personnel are quickly attuned to illnesses. In addition, zoos share among
themselves data banks which collectively provide a wealth of information that can have
positive implications in both human and animal health care and disease prevention
(McNamara, 2007). The lack of funding for bio surveillance causes serious disparities in
how much and to what extent biological factors can be studied concerning threats to
humans, agricultural livestock, and wildlife. It has been proposed that one possible source
of funding is to have public-health professionals to work with zoo professionals to create
electronic surveillance networks (McNamara, 2007). The problem with the argument that
zoos provide opportunities for bio surveillance is that public-health officials do not
presently work with zoo agencies in this capacity. If funding can be found for such a
partnership, why can it n 

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