America\'s Zoos: Entertainment to Conservation


The children run ahead, squealing with delight. Their parents lag
behind holding the children\'s brightly colored balloons and carrying the
remnants of the half-eaten cotton candy. The family stops to let the children
ride the minitrain and take pictures together under the tree. They walk hand-
in-hand toward the exit, stopping first at the gift shop where they each splurge
on a treat to remind them of the day\'s adventure. Although this may sound like
a typical scene from the local amusement park, it\'s actually the city zoo. All
that forgotten was walking from cage to cage watching the anxious animals pace
back and forth in their closed-in prisons (Hope, 1994). Their cages feel cold
and desolate. The concrete floor provides no warmth and the atmosphere is
sterile. The animals do not appear very happy in this closed-in environment.
Just who are these anxious animals? They are the common everyday animals any
child could name: the bears, the tigers, the elephants and the monkeys. What
about the rest of the world\'s unique creatures? Hundreds of species are
endanger of becoming extinct, and conservation is in need. Extinction is a
permanent issue. The treatment of all our animals and their rights is important
as well. As concern for the world\'s animals becomes more prominent in the news,
our zoos rise up to meet the challenge. Animal\'s rights and their treatment,
regardless of species, have been brought to attention and positive movements
made. While the number of endangered species grows, zoos attempt to do their
part in conservation. Both in and out of the park, zoos and their scientist do
their best to help these species. Efforts out in the field within the United
States as well as other countries are currently in progress. The question lies
in the worthiness of these efforts. Is the conservation successful? Are these
efforts being done for the right reasons? Will zoos remain as a form of family
entertainment or will the enjoyment of the patrons become unimportant? While it
is obvious that things are changing, the eventual goals might not be so clear.
As the concern shifts from entertainment to conservation, the zoo\'s efforts are
examined, both in the park and beyond, and their motives judged.
As cities became more and more urbanized, it was harder to still have
first-hand contact with nature. Time schedules were busier and no one could
really afford to spend an entire day to drive out to the countryside. City zoos
took over that connection to nature, especially for the cityfolks. Afternoon
visits to the zoo became a fun form of family entertainment (Arrandale, 1990).
Even though the bars separated the two worlds, it allowed the people to see the
animals. When this interaction began to take place, people examined these
institutions for their concern for the animals. The intentions were obvious, to
provide the public with the ability to be around these creatures, but were their
methods ethical? Animals were displayed for the general public\'s enjoyment
(Diamond, 1995). As one critically judges the physical environment of these
animals they can personally decide whether ethics were compromised. Some argued
that the zoos provided a safe home and regular meals for the animals, and for
this they should be happy. On the flip side, these creatures were caged and
unable to thrive in the wild (Burke, 1990). Under observation, zoos are examined
for the humanity with which they treat the animals. Animal welfare has become a
concern within our country. This group is not to be confused with the animal
rights movement. Without the use of violence, one of the animal welfare
movement\'s goals is to improve the way these institutions, like the city zoos,
provide for these animals (Burke, 1990). Honoring the conservation efforts,
they simply want to make sure the animals are cared for with the highest levels
of concern, both physically and nutriently (Diamond, 1995). Human rights are
established in the written form of laws, and these activists speak on behalf of
the animal\'s rights (Burke, 1990). While some views, like fighting for the
equality of animals and humans, might seem extreme, no one can argue that the
animal\'s rights need to remain an important issue when providing care at the
zoos (Burke, 1990).
The days of a zoo simply providing a recreational place for a family to
spend their afternoon together are over. The purpose of zoos has changed
considerably since their formation. The switch from pure entertainment to
education and conservation is a direct result of the growing number of
endangered species. Programs are now continually being implemented to try to
rebuild the