"For most of the wild things on earth, the future must depend on the conscience of mankind." - Dr. Archie Carr, professor of zoology at university of florida
Zoos have existed for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China all had collections of wild animals on display in their day. The first zoo was established in Thebes around 1490 BC. Some monarchs and monasteries in Europe then adopted this idea of maintaining privately owned collections of wild animals, referring to them as menageries. It was the transition from privately owned menageries to public institutions that created the zoos that we know today (Mayo, S.).
A Royal Menagerie. Retrieved from ladyofthezoos.com.
Overtime zoos have developed into conservation centers, places devoted to research, education, and reproduction; not just places that are solely meant to display an array of animals for public attraction (Mayo, S.). With one of every four species of mammal considered threatened, and one of every three amphibians, zoos have shifted their focus into becoming places devoted to promoting the survival of animals on planet Earth (IUCN Red List).
The total number of wild animals in the world has dropped by half in just 44 years. Retrieved from youngzine.org.
People learn about animals they would likely never encounter in their lives otherwise when they visit zoos. Retrieved from southwickszoo.com.
However, while the shift in zoos from places dedicated to public attraction to places dedicated to conservation may seem positive, many problems have arisen regarding the ethical and welfare issues associated with keeping wild animals in captivity, away from their real homes in the wild. Many question if it's really conservation if we're not actually trying to better these animals' natural habitats. A single species' disappearance can make a huge difference on a global scale, so this is no small matter.
Groups such as PETA have taken action on this ethical issue. Retrieved from peta.org.
Many animals show signs of stress in captivity. These stress behaviors are sometimes difficult to identify, but some common behaviors include repetitive movements, pacing back and forth, head bobbing, rocking, repeatedly retracing their steps, sitting motionless, biting the bars of their enclosure or biting themselves (Embar, W.).