As children, many of us thought zoos were the coolest places on Earth. They were filled with all of our favorite animals all for the purpose of our entertainment. We had the ability to view animals that we might have never seen in person in our lifetimes had we not gone to the zoo. However, the older we get, or at least the more self-aware we become, we start to realize that zoos aren’t the sanctuaries we thought they were. In reality, zoos are no better than prisons for these innocent animals, many of which know no other lives than the four walls they find themselves in and a bunch of people glaring at them through thick glass.
We try to justify that zoos are good in that they provide research into the lives of these mysterious beasts and aid in conservation efforts. The reality, however, is much grimmer. Zoos aren’t the animal homes that we’re led to believe they are. Even if zoos did help to preserve animals and aid in the welfare of the wild animals in the world, at what cost is the salvation? The animals in captivity suffer so much for so little in return. The truth is, many zoo owners would never want you to know the realities of the horrors that are zoos.
Behind all the smoke and mirrors lives a much darker world for the animals inside a zoo. Things look great from our perspective, but what does an animal see? Here are 15 photographs that zoo owners would not want you to see:
15. The Humans Who Visit Them Aren’t Respectful
Seeing litter really isn’t anything new to us, unfortunately. However, seeing litter in the exhibit of a zoo animal is absolutely barbaric. You might think this is just a shot of the litter at the edge of the exhibit, but as you can see, the crocodile is buried beneath the pile of litter. Unfortunately, animals don’t always know that the litter is just garbage. They might smell food that was leftover residue from when the item was new. Smelling the food might trick them into thinking the entire thing is edible, and tragedy ensues once the litter is digested. Not only do they eat the garbage and get sick, but such objects can also physically harm them. They can cut themselves or potentially even get trapped within the plastic. There are countless negative results that can happen when animals come in contact with garbage, and they’re all tragic.
14. Some Animals Are Painted To Be Deceptive
We go to zoos thinking that we’re going to see and learn about exotic animals that we might have never come face to face with had we not come to the zoo. The reality is, however, that many zoos don’t even offer the real thing. Instead, some zoos paint or alter animals in other ways to make you believe that you’re seeing something other than what’s really there. For example, the donkeys in the picture above are painted to resemble zebras. Not only are the humans getting tricked, but the animals are being harmed as well. Such animals are usually disguised by being covered in spray paint or other toxic chemicals that can irritate their skin or make them sick. But who cares about animals when you can sell donkey rides for the price of zebra rides? This act is absolutely barbaric and sickening to everyone involved.
13. Sometimes They Must Be Treated With Antidepressants
When animals experience severe zoochosis, instead of giving a bigger or more suitable habitat, they’ll likely be treated with antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, like the penguins in the photograph above are. Doing this can cause even more problems. The animals end up behaving differently from how they normally would biologically, the natural way they live their day-to-day lives being lost. How are we supposed to study these animals and learn from their behavior if they aren’t even really acting like how they would if they were in the wild? Clearly, humans are given antidepressants and anxiety medications when it’s deemed that they need them, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, humans have the intellect to also undergo counseling and gain an understanding, at least a little bit, of what their medical condition is and why they might have it. Penguins don’t enjoy the same privileges. They’re just stuffed in a little box and given chemicals in the hope that they might “enjoy” their lives in captivity.
12. Humans Can Get Into The Exhibits
Unfortunately, not all zoos are safe places that people can enjoy without fear of being attacked by the animal as shown in the photograph above. This instance is a bit unique in that the woman intentionally climbed the barrier. However, the zoo shouldn’t have exhibits that are so easy to break into, especially when on the other side is a stressed and anxious animal that can be dangerous when approached. Humans are dumb, careless, and reckless, and animals should not be forced to deal with the results of people’s idiotic behavior. Children, nitwits, and mentally unstable people are all allowed to go into zoos, so the enclosures need to be well protected in order to make sure no one can break in. It’s not primarily about keeping the humans safe from the animals. It’s more important that the animals are kept safe from the humans.
11. Tragedies Can Happen
Luckily, the woman in the previous item was rescued before the bears had to be tranquilized or harmed in any other way. Unfortunately, not all stories end up like that. The death of the gorilla, Harambe, in one Ohio zoo broke the internet last year because the creature was shot when a little boy found his way into the exhibit. Many blamed the mother for not watching the little boy, who was able to break in to see the gorilla. Others think it was the zoo’s fault for not having a better security system. Either way, the tragic life of Harambe was taken for no reason other than carelessness on various accounts. It was a tragic accident that never would have happened if there was no zoo in the first place. The woman in the earlier photograph, as well as the little boy in this photograph, put not only their lives, but also the lives of the animals and the people who saved them, at great risk.
10. The Conditions Aren’t Always Good
Running a zoo isn’t always easy as you might assume. Just picture taking care of your own pets. Every once in a while, maybe you forget to refresh your pets’ water bowl, or maybe you skip a walk because you’re too busy with work to take your pets out. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. The same can be said for those who take care of the hundreds of animals within the zoo’s walls. It’s expensive to have the supplies and feeds needed to keep the animals in the zoo and keep the place operating, let alone pay to have enough staff to care for the animals. Clearly, as you can see in the photograph above, this tiger is not getting the fresh water it deserves. Cats like to drink and eat in more seclusion, but that’s not offered in this unnatural, dirty, cement hole, which is this poor tiger’s home.
9. The Animals Aren’t Properly Cared For
Even when we have animals in captivity and are able to study them, there’s still not always enough known about what they do and how they live to give them the proper care. There’s a good chance that not all of the animals within the zoo’s walls are given the proper nutrition they need to survive. As you can see from the photograph above, this camel is absolutely emaciated. You should not be able to see the bones and spine of such an animal this way. The poor thing looks like its skin is sticking straight onto its bones. The color of the camel is also dark and gray when camels are actually known for having a bright tan color. It looks as though it has food, but there are numerous reasons as to why this animal might not be eating the food provided. Perhaps it’s old, or possibly, it’s just that the camel is too stressed from living in captivity to eat.
8. The Animals Can Get Zoochosis
You’ve probably had a moment of feeling stir crazy once in your life. Maybe you were stressed out and needed a reason to get out of the house. Perhaps you had to stay late at work and felt like you might go insane if you had to spend another second in the office. Animals forced to live in captivity, unfortunately, experience this as well, and it’s known as “zoochosis.” Wild animals are supposed to have the ability to run free and live where they choose to. When they’re forced to live behind bars, their freedoms are taken away, and it can make them go crazy. As you can see in the photograph above, this bear is trying everything in its power to escape from the bars that hold him back. It’s not healthy for these animals to be trapped, and this can cause some very serious health risks for zoo animals.
7. The Animals Suffer The Most
In the case of the polar bear earlier discussed, no one was badly harmed, but the zookeepers stated that they were moments away from shooting the polar bears if they felt doing so was necessary to save the woman. Thus, it’s clear that the animals are the ones who suffer to benefit the humans. For example, we get enjoyment out of watching dolphin shows, but the result is that these dolphins must lay helpless in very little water while their tiny enclosures get cleaned as the picture above shows. We think that we might be helping the animals and saving them from the torture of the real world; however, they’d be better off if they had a larger, more natural place to live in. The animals aren’t benefiting from any of this; only the humans are. It’s the animals who have to sleep in their lonely dens every night just so we can visit them for a few hours every so often.
6. Old Animals Are Killed And Used For Other Reasons
Once an animal is no longer young enough to reproduce or be active as entertainment, they’re seen as useless. Oftentimes, they’ll be sold to other zoos or potentially crueler homes like circuses. Unfortunately, as is shown in the picture above, one old giraffe that was no longer able to breed, so it was killed and used as food for lions. This image is graphic and tragic and is a reminder of what fate may exist for animals that no longer serve a purpose to the keepers of the zoo. It’s probably the most natural process for the animals at the zoo, but it seems much more barbaric knowing that it happened so unnaturally. The giraffe was healthy and living a decent life but ended up being killed just to feed other animals in the zoo. Perhaps you could look at it positively and think that it was ending any suffering of the giraffe, but no matter how you look at it, it just feels wrong.
5. Some Animals Aren’t Fed At All
Unfortunately, the alternative to animals getting fed other zoo animals is sometimes the animals hardly getting fed at all. That’s the tragic truth for the tiger pictured above. As you can see by the way its skin hangs heavy on its bones, this tiger is absolutely emaciated. If you can’t afford to feed your animals, you have absolutely no business having them in the first place. This animal can’t comprehend hunger and only knows it as pain, and the poor creature has no way of knowing if this pain will ever go away. And even when it does get fed, such irregular feedings aren’t healthy for animals like this. Doing things unnaturally for zoo animals can cause serious stress that they don’t have the ability to understand. They get anxieties which might cause them to lose what little appetite they still have after being starved for so many years.
4. The Cages Are Too Small
The animals in zoos that likely suffer the most are birds. Most birds are supposed to be animals that can soar through the sky as they look for prey. They’re meant to flow with the wind and feel the fresh air daily. They’re supposed to be given the opportunity to explore miles of land, looking for materials to build their nests with, for food to eat, and for other birds to mate with. Unfortunately, for birds that live in zoos, they’re given rooms not much bigger than the room you’re sitting in now. Some are also kept in cages to ensure they don’t hurt themselves throughout the day. When birds are kept in small cages, they suffer many psychological and physical problems. The stress of having so little space to fly can make them sick or unable to eat. They also might end up flying into the walls or ceilings of the small exhibits they’re given.
3. The Animals Know No Freedom
The other type of animals who have it the worst are aquatic animals. Like the massive turtle above, many animals that live underwater are given very little space to swim around. Like the birds running into the walls, underwater creatures often run into the walls of their tanks as they are not able to realize that they can’t keep swimming through the glass. Many fish die from hitting their heads on the glass walls, and many others suffer stress and fear related to their tiny living areas. Again, like the birds, they might not eat or be able to do other functions they’re supposed to in order to live naturally. Even though some animals born into captivity know no other life and certainly don’t understand freedom, they still experience the same anxieties that other animals in captivity might. Their biological urges are not being fulfilled, and similar to how we feel when we have a midlife crisis or have no direction in our future, these animals feel lost their entire lives.
2. The Zoos Only Care About Making Money
Zoos mask their desire to make money by telling us that they’re actually helping the animals and doing well for the society. They trick us into thinking they’re helping when really, they’re feeding off our guilt and curiosities and harming animals in the process. If they cared so much about helping out the animals, why do they have to keep them in captivity? If you’ve been to a zoo recently, you’ve probably noticed that even if entrance is usually free, they still overprice their merchandise, food, and drinks, and charge you extra to see certain exhibits. It’s all just a ploy to keep making more and more money. Sure, many animals are born in zoos, but how many have we taken from the wild? Are these animals really doing all that great behind the four walls, or would they all be better off if we had left them alone in the first place?
1. Zoos Set Us Back Instead Of Helping Animals
Many believe that zoos are actually holding us back instead of helping us save animals and learn more about our world. How are we supposed to learn about animals in order to help them if the only ones we have to study act in no way similar to the animals that roam freely? Why do these animals have to be locked up for us to see and help them? Does it not seem strange that we charge so much to look at these animals when we could be putting that money to better use while the animals can roam free? There are some zoos that keep their animals in much larger and more natural environments and allow you to drive through instead of walk around a park, thus allowing you to still get a close look at the animals without having to have them locked up. If these pictures anger or upset you, share them with your friends to hopefully inspire some change!