It’s exciting to witness normally undomesticated animals so close, all that separates you and the animal is a thick piece of glass. How else are people going to get so close to lions, monkeys, or elephants other than visiting the nearest zoo. Its safe to say that most of us have been to the zoo, within the last year I been to both the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoo with friends and both zoos have one thing common which is the animals are “unhealthy”. Although there are fun activities at the zoo, one can notice the lack of exercise the animals experience, which is due to the small exhibit they live in and that was only what I can see. I imagine the stress and depression they may have living in the zoos. As you walk from one exhibit to the next, the animals are seen sleeping or pacing back and forth. The animals that are kept in zoos all share one trait which is they are “unhealthy”. Zoos can do simple tasks to improve the lives of animals kept in captivity which are provide wide open space, weekly environmental enrichment to their exhibit and banning breeding programs in zoos.

Walking to see each animal’s exhibit we witness the lack of space which limits the animal’s movements. As an example elephants are one of the largest animals at the San Diego Zoo, four are kept in the Elephant Odyssey while “5 adults and 8 calves of varying ages” are located in the Safari Park which is 1800 acres unfortunately that is less than 3 square miles(San Diego Zoo). Elephants in the wild have been known to walk 50 miles a day. Yet zoo directors have argue that elephants do not need to walk long distances in the wild. Robert J. Wiese is the Chief Life Sciences Officer of San Diego Zoo has said, “Elephants only go that far if necessary to find food, water, or mates, if they don’t need to travel 50 miles, they don’t (Cohn p.716).” The Chief Life Sciences Officer mentions the basic necessities for the elephants to travel but failed to tell the physical attribute the lack of walking causes them.Elephant2.jpeg “Cramped enclosures and hard surfaces cause a variety of problems, including deadly foot disease, arthritis, infertility, obesity, and abnormal repetitive behaviors such as swaying and head bobbin,” was said by Ed Stewart, the president and co-founder of Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), who has 32 years of experience looking after Asian and African elephants. Stewart believes the differences between PAWS and zoos are “at PAWS, we provide elephants with large, natural habitat environments that better meet elephants’ physical, social and psychological needs (Stewart, “No ethical way to keep elephants in captivity).”

A solution to the small space that the elephants are kept in is to buy more land. Zoos have been purchasing more acres spending over millions of dollar to expand the exhibits but they also been adopting more elephants or adding an elephant to a breeding program in either case the zoos will increase the elephant population with their new exhibits. This leads to problems for the elephants that are anxiety of separation and too many elephants in one exhibit which defects the purpose of buying more land.Zoo If zoos wish to keep the elephants mentally and physically healthy the solution is not only expanding their exhibit but also not increasing the population of the elephants in the zoos. A restriction on the number of elephants must be place so zoos do not over populate the exhibit they plan to have the elephants to live in.

It happens many times when visiting zoos; tigers are seen walking around their exhibit with their head hanging low and walking aimlessly. For the visitors of the zoo they see this as nothing more than normal behavior, unfortunately it is not compared to the behavior of animals in the wild. This behavioral of the tigers can be compared to humans who have been in imprisonment. This behavioral is due to lack of movement in the exhibit since tigers are known to travel into different territory in the wild and lack of stimulation the exhibit can afford. TigerTigers seek to be in constant movement and that is the solution. Zoos are asked to enrich the exhibit for the benefit of the tigers such as “animals need to be able to carry out a diversity of species- appropriate behaviors, a range of natural behaviors through appropriate exhibit design, husbandry, and enrichment programs (McPhee & Carlstead).” Zoos would be asked to allow the animals to stimulate the entire animal’s senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and interaction. Without these stimulations to the animals, zoo visitors are witness to, for example, different species described as “bored” and “tired” of their exhibit and develop negative behavior. The Honolulu Zoo Society has done a great job giving the animals different tools to enhance their stay in captivity. The zoo has asked for donations, even having a wish-list on their website, of recycled and/or reused items for the animals such as stuff animals, bed sheets, and old magazines. Honolulu Zoo Society believes, “in a zoo setting, it is as important to provide mentally and physically-enriching activities for the animals as it is to provide nutritious, well-balanced diets (Animal Enrichment).”
TigerAtPlay.jpeg  Other zoos should do what Honolulu Zoo is doing for their animals. The animal’s well-being such as physical health and also their mental health need to be taken care of. Simple items can help to keep the animals active and people who are visiting the zoos can be asked to bring items. Honolulu Zoo makes it clear that, “environmental enrichment improves or enhances zoo environments for animals, stimulating them to investigate and interact with their surroundings (Animal Enrichment).” Environmental enrichment must be encouraged for all zoos for the well-being of the animals in captivity. A weekly enhancement of the exhibit should help the animals steer from the “bored” and “tired” behavioral and zoos can be sure to see more excitement from visitors as well.

The lack of space and boring exhibits that causes unnatural behavioral can be both factors to zoo’s breeding programs. Zoo’s breeding programs use computer database to, “help compile studbooks that record the details of each individual animal on the programme, e.g. its sex, date of birth, and full ancestry. The Species Co-ordinator decides which animals will be paired for breeding and asks the zoos that hold them to transfer the animals (How breeding programmes work).”Another problem that zoo’s don’t realize is the cost of having a breeding program. The money for the breeding program can be used to benefit the other lives of the animals in the zoo. “Captive breeding programs have a high cost to support and properly care for each animal,” was listed by Emily Temple, who has looked into both sides of breeding programs. With an addition member to an exhibit the stress increases for the other animals which also leads back to lack of space and room to move around. Unfortunately zoos have been known to sell their older animals for the new member of the family that was produce from the breeding program. Relocating an animal is one more reason to cause stress and depression to them. It takes time for the animal to be accepted into a new home and while that is happening they are missing their old home. Another reason causing stress is mothers are isolated from the other animals. Some would say it is to keep the mother and baby safe but in the wild the mother is not left alone.  Introducing the new member of the family is also a concern to look into, due to the environment they are living in. Behavioral problems are seen due to the climate they live in are different from the environment the animal’s is original from as it is stated, “some animals are forced to live in climates that do not suit them (Georgias Research).”Forcing animals to breed should be banned, it is a well-known fact that zoos can use breeding program as a way to increase visitors and profit.


Although some believe it helps those animals which are on the endanger list, I believe a sanctuary is the best place, there the animals will have better health care, continuing to use all their senses, and have more space to grow. Animal-lovers can visit sanctuaries knowing the animals are being looked after with the best care. Some zoos argue that visitors do not want to see the animals from a far distance but rather close up; this would explain the small exhibit. The animals are what is important, there should be a limit to how many animals can stay according to how much land the zoos provides for the animals. Every exhibit need to weekly enhance their exhibit to encourage environment enrichment programs in zoos. Lastly breeding programs should not be enforce on the animals, it should be allowed to happen naturally. And care for the mother and the new baby must be higher meant for their well-being along with the others. Animals should not be kept in captivity for our enjoyment but for their safety and well-being. We all need to work together to help them.


Annotated Bibliography

Cohn, Jeffrey P. “Do Elephants Belong in Zoos?.” Bioscience, vol. 56, no. 9, Sept. 2006, pp. 714-717. EBSCOhost, Cohn gives an insight of the physical trouble elephants deal with living in zoos. The benefit of walking long distances does for them and the how zoos have taken that away. Gives examples of what zoos have tried to better the lives of the elephants.

Honolulu Zoo Society. “Animal Enrichment: What is Animal Enrichment? Why is it Important in Today’s Zoo Setting?” 2017. Great insight of what is and what can animals enrichment can do to help animals in zoos. Giving examples of what zoos today can do and what the public can donate to the animals. Helping the animals not be bored in the zoos.

McPhee, Elsbeth M. & Carlstead, Kathy. “The Importance of Maintaining Natural Behaviors in Captive Mammals.” 310-313. – Carlstead 202010.pdf Animals in captivity have shown different behavior from those animals in the wild. The article helps to give suggestions for zoos better the exhibit for animals in captivity.

San Diego Zoo. Elephants. 2017. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017. Gives details of the exhibit and information of the elephants and other animals. Activities the zoo provides and an insight of the animals visitors can see while at the zoo.

Stewart, Ed. “No ethical way to keep elephants in captivity” A Voice for Elephants. 3 May, 2013. Stewart is the CEO of a sanctuary for elephants and speaks of the things needed for them. Animals in captivity need to be kept protected. He believes that all animals are meant to stay in the wild.

Temple, Emily. “Captive Breeding Programs: The Pros and Cons to Building an “Arc”. Finding Porpoise. April 21, 2015. Giving a brief essay of both sides of breeding programs. Takes a look of why zoos have them but also why zoos should not have them.

The advantages and disadvantages of keeping animals in Zoos/captivity. Georgias Researches.–disadvantages.html. A simply bulletin point list of the pros and cons of animals in captivity. Great way to see the counter-augments and how to see a solution for the problem.

ZSL Let’s Work For Wildlife. How Breeding Progammes Work. Explaining what breeding program is and how zoos use them. Zoos work together to pair the animals to increase their population. Breeding programs are used for endanger species. Increasing their survival rate when the baby is born in captivity.