Let’s go to the zoo… or not?

Oct 27 • Featured, Uncategorized • 664 Views • 6 Comments on Let’s go to the zoo… or not?

Recently I was talking to a mum about a city zoo we had both been to. 'I thought the animals were cute,' she said. And yes, of course they were cute. Adorable, even. But I also thought they looked deeply unhappy, pacing up and down behind their glass.

So why did we go? Well, I thought it was a 'farm' zoo – pigs, goats, rabbits. I didn't expect to see gorillas, lions and tigers in cages – albeit glass ones – that were far too small for them.

And as a mum, taking kids to zoos and even safari parks is something I really, really struggle with. I know it's educational for children to be able to see wild animals at close quarters, and if they're very small, they are unlikely to notice if the animal appears to be distressed. And I know it's unlikely we'll ever be able to afford to go to Africa or India or the Arctic and see these animals in the wild.

But in my heart I don't think it's right that kids' only impression of these animals should be in a confined space, looking bored or downright distressed, either.

Are you planning to take your child to a zoo this half-term? Do let me know what you think.

written by Liz Jarvis


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6 Responses to Let’s go to the zoo… or not?

  1. Cafe Bebe says:

    This is a tricky one. I’ve never been a fan of zoos until I went to the San Diego Zoo where they have the most amazing HABITATS. Sometimes it’s hard to see the animals in their habitats, they’re so well done! I went to London Zoo about 2 months ago and Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago earlier this month. My Little Miss loved seeing the animals and I didn’t see much distress. The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is one of the only remaining FREE zoos in the US which made it a fantastic outing for our family but I suppose FREE makes the zoo less perfect for the animals. I don’t know where I am on this…I want Little Miss to see some of the things she loves and she is crazy about animals. I think most zoos are much better than they used to be as people are so much more aware about animal welfare. And in many cases, if the zoos didn’t exist, perhaps there would be more issues with species endangerment. Lots of zoos are helping in the "conservation" effort… Sorry to waffle but it is a tricky one, isn’t it??

  2. Nicola says:

    We love Marwell Zoo. It has so much space for the larger animals and none seem to be in distress. I agree that it isn’t the same as the space they have in the wild and part of me agrees that perhaps we shouldn’t go and encourage it. However, I also think it is important that we can see these animals and understand how tall a giraffe is, how big a rhinocerous (sp?!) is and how mad monkeys are etc as no amount of books or even tv programmes will show you that. We also watch loads of wildlife programmes so they do get to see where animals should be. I think I also convince myself, rightly or wrongly, that it is ok as if the animals are born in captivity then they know no different.

  3. Whistlejacket says:

    I alway struggle with this one and while I recognise some zoos now have an important role in conservation, it does seem a shame to see some animals standing about in a rainy enclosure in this country when they could be running around in a savannah somewhere in Africa. My 3 year old isn’t really interested in zoos unless he can get close to the animal. We went to London Zoo recently and he was bored trying to spot the tiger or lion lurking in the bushes 25 metres away. He loved the reptile house though where he got to stroke a snake – that was his highlight! He loves wildlife TV programmes too.

  4. Expat Mum says:

    I think it definitely depends on the zoo and the conditions. I live about three blocks from the Lincoln Park zoo mentioned above and it’s fab. It’s free, which gives a lot of kids a chance to do something that often costs and arm and a leg, but more importantly, most of the animals there are involved in some sort of study and research. For example, the chimps and gorillas are studied so that veterinarians can go out to Africa and better take care of those in the wild. They have a lot of camps in the summer too, some of which are subsided. Again this means that kids are exposed to things (and career possibilities) that they wouldn’t normally get. I don’t think I would go if the animals appeared badly treated and depressed.

  5. Catherine says:

    Before children, husband and I went to a zoo in Dublin. It was the most run down, dinging place I’ve ever seen. Lots of enclosures were empty, and those that weren’t home deeply unhappy looking animals. Since then I’ve been in two minds about zoos. We’ve been once or twice with LO but once he’s old enough to ask why the animals are there and other such questions that ultimately lead to the ‘where do we come from’ questions, then I may reconsider and just stick to petting zoos…although a friends daughter was bitten by a ferret at one of these this week…

  6. A Modern Mother says:

    I have to admit the last zoo I have to was the San Diego Zoo, which is famous for it natural layout and animal habitats. We were members there (that’s where we lived when the girls were toddlers) but sadly they don’t remember it! I haven’t been to any other zoos — so perhaps I am in for a let down.


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