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Zoos and other Animal Exhibits

I really don't like the thought of zoos ( I hate them in fact), and have been avoiding them (unless they are completely a rescue/rehab place). There was a zoo in FL we used to go to, because they said they were all rescues. Then they built the Africa section, but I had read that they went and just captured giraffes and lions for the exhibit (I think that is pretty typical of most zoos and places like Sea World). We had taken Noah to a few zoo-type places, before I had put a ton of research/thought into it, so he has seen lions, giraffes, elephants, Shamu, etc.. in person.
Now I find myself in a place where I just can't spend money on places that capture and trap animals like that..and then they live in those unnatural settings for the rest of their lives.

Here is my dilemma. My 2 year old, Lyle, has seen giraffes and elephants in books, and maybe on TV but it is just impossible to experience the beauty and amazement of a giraffe in a book. I want him to see one in person, but the chances of us going to Africa are slim to none, so it probably will never happen. I hate zoos, but at the same time, I want my kids to know how beautiful and amazing animal creatures are..... My mom thinks I am being unfair and depriving my kids because of my own beliefs (she was BEGGING me to let us all go to SeaWorld).....I think she should just be glad she raised a child (me) who has values, and tries to stick to them!

Do true "rescue" zoos exist...that have giraffes and elephants, and other African animals? I know all of the SeaWorld type places are not rescues.
What do you all think?

I don't know.  I think it's possible to get a more intimate view of animals and how amazing they are by watching documentary films.  I think I was at one zoo in my life, when I was about 6, and I barely remember it.

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I think increasingly zoos are populated by animals which have been bred in captivity rather than captured to fill zoos. Also, I know in the UK that many zoos fund and send experts to projects around the world dedicated to conservation and so on, which might be something you could emphasise with your kids. This is something that London Zoo in particular is very invested in: http://www.zsl.org/conservation/

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I'm reading 'Zoo Story: Life In The Garden of Captives', and let me just say: it's a hard read! b/c so many times, there's just no 'good' answer. Short of culling the human herd-- which, ok, i can see a case being made, most days! (only kidding a little!)-- but which would be problematic on several fronts... there's often no good solution. Example: elephants lose habitat to humans; only a few wildlife preserves are available; overpopulation on the preserves means no food for any elephants; so whole families are mown down to 'cull' the population to a sustainable level-- often only the orphaned babies are left alive, since that means the longest time before park staff (who hates this part of the job) have to do another cull. This (predictably) leaves the infants traumatized and miserable, and many of these stop eating and die too. Other elephant families for miles around know about the cull & are traumatized by it, b/c of the distress bellows of their fallen cousins during the slaughter; for weeks other elephant 'tribes' make trips to the site of the cull and stand & rock, bellowing grief... park staff will have cut up & removed all possible trace of the bodies, to try to minimize distress to other elephants in the area.... but the other clans know anyway, and make the pilgrimage, & grieve; park staff says it's not uncommon for other clans to grieve for weeks after a cull... OR, periodically the elephants that would otherwise be brutally slaughtered are placed in zoos, carefully chosen based on resources to offer space, social companionship, and a reasonable/ livable habitat for elephants.

Which is more hideous? If you were the one who had to make that choice, and carry it out...? That's just one example of many, where every available choice is a bad one and zoo placement isn't necessarily the worst of the bad. Also, for a wild animal born & raised in captivity, release is often not an option... do we just kill them, then? or do we try to set up the most natural habitat possible, & try to ensure that they have access to joy despite human interference in their birth, which sucks but can't be changed?

I HATE zoos, and generally would just as soon tour a prison... but I think it's naive of us to say 'all zoos are bad'. The ugly truth is that some of these animals would be MORE screwed otherwise... humans suck, btw, if i haven't mentioned it lately.

When my kid was little, i took him a few times; i went to the national zoo in dc this year, with my sister. I don't sleep well after, but it's a good reminder to pay attention to what we're doing in other parts of the world where amazing creatures are orphaned & endangered constantly through human greed, carelessness, & arrogance... the problem of wild things in a human-dominated world is huge, and ugly, and stomach-turning; but i think zoos are more a symptom of the problem than the problem itself. If animals are treated decently (cage-free, space, surroundings as close to their natural setup as possible), i have less problem w/ zoos than circuses...

But, yeah, the flip side: still disturbing. In summary: there's no right answer, just do whatever you feel like you can live with best! (sigh!)

Sorry for the rambling... this has been on my mind a good bit lately b/c of that damn book (which is highly recommended, but hard to read).  :-\  

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Like everyone else says or implies, the decision will ultimately lie with you and I can see justification with either decision. Sometimes you have to go behind enemy lines to get a better idea and feel for what you're fighting. It seems that you are passionate about animal rights and you may be in a better position to channel that by being as familiar with the environment that animals endure in zoos and other type establishments. Sometimes you decide between the lesser evil and your child enjoying the experience is just an added bonus.

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as a kid, i was more affected by some good documentaries than when i went to the zoo. what i remember most about the zoo was how the lions never did anything, plus a few animals i didn't know existed.

to me documentaries that show the animals in their habitat are way more interesting. the world around them is so relevant to understanding how they exist and why they have certain traits. i never really got this by going to the L.A. Zoo or the San Diego Zoo (the latter supposed to be more well-known/good/awesome/whatever). I felt pretty sad for the animals though. Maybe the best thing I got out of it was a slight nudge towards animal rights!

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as a kid, i was more affected by some good documentaries than when i went to the zoo. what i remember most about the zoo was how the lions never did anything, plus a few animals i didn't know existed.

to me documentaries that show the animals in their habitat are way more interesting. the world around them is so relevant to understanding how they exist and why they have certain traits. i never really got this by going to the L.A. Zoo or the San Diego Zoo (the latter supposed to be more well-known/good/awesome/whatever). I felt pretty sad for the animals though. Maybe the best thing I got out of it was a slight nudge towards animal rights!

I like all of this a  LOT, fb.
I guess I will have to wait, as Lyle has no real interest or attention span for any type of TV watching :)
I suppose if he wants to go to a zoo, he can go when he is older, but not on my dime!
Thanks for your thoughtful responses, everyone.

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You know, when he is ready for documentaries you just can't beat David Attenborough's Life On Land series. Hours and hours of footage, I picked mine up secondhand.

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