MYTH 1: Zoos exist for conservation
Whilst some zoos may contribute in small ways to conservation projects, the vast majority of animals in zoos are not on the endangered species list, and the ones who are will likely never be rehabilitated to their natural habitat. A study conducted by Captive Animal Protection Society (CAPS) found that almost half of the animals in breeding programs in the EU were not even endangered in the wild.
Former zoo director David Hancocks estimates that less than 3% of a zoo’s budget goes to conservation, while the majority goes towards “hi-tech exhibits and marketing efforts to lure visitors.”
The truth is that most zoos exist primarily for profit. One of the biggest draw cards for zoos is baby animals. Babies will often be bred even when there isn’t enough room to keep them, inevitably resulting in “surplus” animals in zoos. Surplus management strategies are one of the best-kept secrets of modern zoos.
In 2014, the world reacted with shock and outrage when a healthy 2 year old giraffe named Marius was killed and cut up in front of spectators at Copenhagen Zoo. His body was then fed to the lions.
In response to widespread criticism, Copenhagen Zoo’s Scientific Director Bengt Holst defended the decision, saying that the zoo had a surplus of giraffes and that this is something that’s “done every day“, just not in the public eye. Just a short time later, Copenhagen Zoo was in the news again for killing four healthy lions to make room for a new male lion they wanted to breed. The relevant zoo standards in Australia would allow a similar judgement to be made about ‘surplus animals’ in zoos here, but these ‘management’ decisions are rarely made public.
Zoos also routinely trade and relocate animals who they deem to have outlived profitability or who no longer fit into breeding schemes. Trading animals with other zoos can be extremely stressful for the animals who are relocated, as they leave behind social bonds and surroundings they have grown accustomed to.
Just like SeaWorlds and other marine parks, for zoos the interests of animals usually comes second to attracting visitors and making money.
FACT: Most zoos exist for profit.