13 Awful Things You Never Knew About Zoos

Profile photo of Whitney-C

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:

eye roll gif

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)

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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  • 450 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    It is true, these are horrible things and it must be stopped, animals need better lives. And maybe most of the zoo bosses aren ‘t interested in the animals’ living conditions. But I think many animal carers love the animals. But they can ‘t make decisions. That’s irrelevant information. BUT: the zoos have a good side! They can act as sanctuaries for threatened animals, and when the last rhino is poached, hopefully there will be the zoos to save the species. (Not just the zoos, also organizations that are less commercial, but don’t you get my point?)

  • 596 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    I appreciate, cause I found exactly what I was having a look for.
    You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have
    a great day. Bye

  • Profile photo of alexblue

    615 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    So f’d up.. They wouldn’t treat their family like this, or their friends or even their companion animals. I refuse to go to zoos and protest them whenever I can. Same for any traveling show that uses animals for entertainment. They are living thinking feeling beings that deserve to live free in their natural homes!

  • Profile photo of natureandanimallover

    628 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Everyone, Everyone around the world should see the Zoo of my country. Their cages are so small, they can only move 6-8 feet around and less. They are ALL depressed. The zookeepers abuse and mistreat all of the living creatures there. I have only gone 2 times, and the environment is very saddening. I believe that PRISONS like these should be ALL CLOSED.

  • Profile photo of frenchhorn

    632 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Zoos suck. I went to a the Fort Worth Zoo about a year ago with my brothers and it was the saddest thing. This was before either of us went vegetarian and started to care about animals, but even then we could see how stupidly depressed these animals are. If you have to cage them to keep them from leaving, that means THEY DON’T WANT TO BE THERE!

    • 623 days ago

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


      Totally agree. These animals are in PRISON and they’ve done nothing wrong. :(

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