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Should Zoos Still Exist?

BIG CATS Two lions relax at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, in Washington, D.C. The zoo is home to six African lions. BILL O'LEARY—THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

Happy, an Asian elephant, lives at the Bronx Zoo, in New York City. But the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) says the zoo doesn’t provide the space and socialization that Happy needs. The NhRP is taking the Bronx Zoo to court. Its case will be heard in 2022.

The case has restarted conversations about whether or not zoos should still exist. Some say zoos save species from extinction and teach people about conservation. Others argue that living in captivity is bad for an animal’s mental and physical health. Here, TIME for Kids readers weigh in.

KELLI NICOLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Grace Hipp, 8

Nashville, Tennessee

Many animal species are saved from extinction thanks to zoos. This past summer, I saw the California condor at the San Diego Zoo and learned about the breeding program there. Several decades ago, these vultures were almost wiped out in the wild. But the zoo has taken some of them in and helped them breed. Now there are many more California condors.

COURTESY WINKI WARRENSON

Yanni Warrenson, 12

San Francisco, California

We should not have zoos. In zoos, animals might not be given proper living conditions. They might also be mistreated for entertainment purposes. Animals can feel stressed by cage restraint, an unfamiliar environment, and the presence of humans. A 2003 study of 35 species of carnivores found that zoo enclosures were too small for some of the animals to carry out their normal routines.

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Shane Madrak, 10

Foster City, California

We should still have zoos for a few reasons. Zoos provide animals with food and a habitat that is made to resemble their natural habitat. Zoos also breed animals to increase their population. And most zoos have educational programs that help children learn about different animals and conservation efforts.

COURTESY ANNSLEY SLAWSKY

Susie Slawsky, 9

Pelham, New York

Animals are kept away from their homes, where they have lots of space to roam, and put in fenced areas or cages. If it’s a crowded day at the zoo, some animals might get overwhelmed. When they’re in zoos, they can also lose their natural instincts. If they were released into the wild, they wouldn’t know how to survive. An animal’s health is more important than our entertainment.

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