CZAAWE Resource Article

Where Are Zoos Going—or Are They Gone?
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science

To some, zoos are prisons exploiting animals. In reality zoos range from bad to better. I make this distinction: A bad zoo makes animals work for it; a good zoo works for animals. Good zoos do effective conservation work and continually strive to improve exhibits, relevance to conservation, and inspiring public engagement for wildlife. Many zoos have improved enormously; the better ones being crucial in saving species that would have otherwise gone extinct. Nonetheless, for some people the mere word "zoo" carries impressions of old zoos, bad zoos, circuses, and theme-park shows that many find distasteful. Good zoos know they must innovate forward. As society grows increasingly estranged from nature and continues driving broad declines of wildlife, wild lands, and natural systems, the goal of zoos and every organization concerned with animal welfare should not be to separate humans from other animals, but to entangle all humans in nonhuman lives. Zoos of the next decades must become the first stage in bringing young people into life-long, engaged caring about animals. They could carry on that mission in their communities, in schools, in wild lands, as well as inside their gates. Without a strong public constituency, wild animals will not withstand continued human proliferation. Zoos and aquariums must innovate toward being a crucial force abetting the continued existence of wildness on Earth. Zoos of the future must become uplifting places of respect, rescue, enhancement, conservation, and public engagement.