Zoos have become a relatively controversial issue in the conversation of ethical animal treatment. Many zoos have been found to be problematic. Some of them provide such dismal habitats for animals that they’re downright depressing.
There are many different problems zoos can have such as: small cages, lack of opportunities for animals to do activities they would do in the wild (burrowing, running, etc.), and many more.
These unethical zoos are simply there to exploit the animals, not protect them. It’s important to boycott negligent zoos to show them that what they’re doing isn’t ok.
Good zoos on the other hand, are in it to help their animals. Below are some things to look for when deciding if a zoo is ethical or not.
What are Their Past Projects?
Look at the projects they’ve worked on.
Is there an area they’ve helped repopulate with a native animal species? Have they made breakthroughs in treating their animals? Do they have ongoing conservation projects?
Good zoos will often extend their interaction with animals past those in captivity.
For example, The Point Defiance Zoo, my personal favorite, helped to repopulate Washington’s red wolf population.
If they’ve been involved in these positively impactful projects, there’s a good chance they’re trustworthy.
What Does Their Social Media Look Like?
Typically, a good indication of what a zoo is like will be available on their social medias. Instagram is a great way to get a feel for a zoo without having to buy tickets and go.
Many zoos will also take social media as an opportunity to discuss conservation and activities they do with animals.
For example, The Point Defiance Zoo has in the past posted videos of zoo keepers providing meerkats with a small ball pit to practice burrowing in. From this video I can tell that they’re giving their animals opportunities to be physically active.
Lots of zoos are also willing to answer questions about their animals through socials media (in the comments for example).
What do they say about Sustainability?
Zoos that care about their animals will often want to advocate for the environments they’re naturally found in.
This might look like talking online about native plant planting programs, reducing and/or advocating against single use plastic, or helping to preserve specific ecosystems in the local area.
How Transparent is The Website?
What a zoo is telling you is just as important as what they aren’t. An ethical zoo shouldn’t have anything to hide.
Their website should discuss the ways they make a positive impact and offer information on their animal’s habitats.