13 Awful Things You Never Knew About Zoos

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Posted March 5, 2014 by Whitney Calk

Some people have really warped ideas about what zoos really are. They’re all: “Zoos save animals!” and “But if animals weren’t in zoos, they’d die in the wild!” And then we’re all:

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FACT: Zoos are businesses that make a profit from breeding, buying, and selling animals. Their main priority is profit, not animal welfare. How do we know?

1. Because these penguins are on antidepressants.


The Humboldt penguins at SEA LIFE Scarborough have been prescribed antidepressants because they’re so unhappy.

2. Because this giraffe was killed and fed to lions when he had outlived his “usefulness.” (NSFW)

marius giraffe

He was 2 years old.

3. Because a gorilla was shot and killed after escaping from an “award-winning” exhibit at the Dallas Zoo.

4. Because the Gaza Zoo painted stripes on these donkeys to make them look like zebras.


5. Because in 2003, the San Diego Zoo and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo imported 11 captured African elephants from Swaziland.

elephants san diego zoo

Elephants are good for ticket sales, and even the biggest zoos steal them from the wild.

6. Because in 2006, several accredited zoos imported 33 monkeys who had been illegally trafficked by poachers in Africa.

squirrel monkey lincoln childrens zoo

They could have worked with wildlife rehabilitators to return the primates to their natural habitat.

7. Because 90 percent of public aquariums studied had animals who demonstrated stereotypic (neurotic) behavior.

convicts cichlids

These included interacting with invisible boundaries, repeatedly raising their heads above the surface of the water, spinning around an imaginary object, and frequently turning on one side and rubbing along the floor of the tank.

8. Because from 2006 to 2009, Missouri’s Dickerson Park Zoo handed over “surplus” giraffes, zebras, kangaroos, wallabies, and exotic antelopes to questionable individuals.

john ball zoo bongo

This included Buddy Jordan, a notorious animal dealer who is known to have sold animals to hunting ranches, exotic-animal breeders, dealers, and unaccredited zoos.

9. Because New Jersey’s Cape May County Zoo sold two giraffes to an animal broker who then sold them to a traveling circus.


10. Because when baby animals who are exhibited in the Minnesota Zoo’s yearly farm display grow up and lose their youthful appeal, the zoo sends them to livestock auctions.


From there, many are ultimately sent to slaughter.

11. Because the chief of veterinary services at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has called on members of the zoo community to support the use of surplus zoo animals in medical experimentation.

frick monkey animal test

12. Because a bear starved to death at the Toledo Zoo after zoo officials locked her up to hibernate without food or water.

sloth bear

They didn’t know that her species doesn’t hibernate.

13. Because a kangaroo at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo had to be euthanized after being struck by a train that ran through the exhibit.

kangaroo cleveland zoo

She was at least the fifth animal to be struck by the train.

Zoos don’t exist to educate us about animals, to save endangered species, or because they “love” animals. They’re in the business of making money, which makes zoos no different from cruel circuses or marine parks.

zoo circus marine park

So, if you care about animals and want to help them:

  • DON’T support industries that treat them as nothing more than money-making machines.

  • DO support organizations that help protect the animals in their natural habitat.

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