Zoo Captivity Paige Gagnon ENGL1030

"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.).

There are more tigers in captivity in the U.S. than there are in the wild. (worldwildlife.org)

Cheetahs often pace back and forth in frustration because their hunting and ranging instincts are denied. (bornfree.org.uk.)

Giraffes live complex lives and travel long distances in the wild. (bornfree.org.uk.)

So this leads us to wonder....

What are the benefits and downfalls of zoo captivity?

So evidently, there are clear benefits and downfalls to zoo captivity, which leaves us questioning what the right decision may be.

Research plan

I plan to conduct my research by reading scholarly articles as well as watching videos surrounding this topic and asking people what their opinion is regarding zoos. I also plan to investigate specific zoos and their treatment of animals.

key challenges

Some challenges I expect to face are coming across biased articles as well as some difficulty in coming to a conclusion because the benefits and downfalls as of now seem relatively equivalent, but I will find out more through further research.


There is not a set date for the due date of this research project yet, but I plan to split this project into three parts. I may devote one week to just research and beginning to write, another week into forming my arguments and writing, and a third week into finalizing and editing my writing.

works cited

"Behind the Bars". Bornfree.org.uk. 20 February 2017.

Bove, J. "Why It Matters When Species Go Extinct". EndangeredSpecies.About.com. 22 February 2017.

Embar, W. "Zoos- Stress Behaviors". Veganpeace.com. 20 February 2017.

"The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCNRedList.org. 20 February 2017.

Mayo, S. "The Evolution of Zoos". LadyoftheZoos.com 19 February 2017.

Mench, J., Kreger, M. "Ethical and Welfare Issues Associated with Keeping Wild Mammals in Captivity". AnthroZoos, Vol. VIII, No. 3. 20 Feburary 2017.

"More Tigers in American Backyards than in the Wild". WorldWildlife.org 20 February 2017.


Created with images by skeeze - "chimpanzee sitting sad" • Storm Rider Photography - "Freedom Dreams." • SFB579 Namaste - "Cheetah" • Deni Williams - "Parque Zoológico de São Paulo / Sao Paulo Zoo - Girafa / Giraffe (Camelopard)" • Rennett Stowe - "Sad Orangutan" • Hermann - "books education school" • 3093594 - "mountain water landscape" • Unsplash - "writing write person"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.