The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

The Union St. Journal: Cherry Creek High School's official news source

Union St. Journal

Zoos Are Good For Us, But Are They Good For Their Animals?

Quinn Rudnick
An adult male lion watches visitors through the chain mail wiring on the top of the enclosure at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Attending the zoo, going to look and hang out with a variety of incredibly cool animals, and grabbing a snack at a restaurant overlooking an enclosure is a common weekend activity for lots of families.
Any child who’s been to a zoo will recall the memories of feeding a giraffe a lettuce leaf for the first time with fondness.

Going to the zoo makes us happy, but is the animals’ discomfort worth it?

Debate about whether zoos are humane enough, if they provide enough conservation efforts, how their funding is allocated, and more has been the subject of a tense discussion for years.

A mature bald eagle looks out at visitors at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The eagle enclosure is fairly open, but it’s in the middle of an area with heavy foot traffic. (Quinn Rudnick)

Most zoos, in order to provide for their animals, partake in conservation efforts. Conservation, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service is the “protection, preservation, management, or restoration of natural environments and the ecological communities that inhabit them.”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) keeps track of how their accredited zoos spend their money and promote conservation efforts. The AZA reported that $252.2 million worldwide was spent on field conservation in 2023, and $29 million was spent on the AZA Saving Animals From Extinction program in 2022. This is a significant amount of money to put towards conservation, and I think it’s great, but the only way it’s benefiting the animals is by protecting their species as a whole.

Even though species in zoos that work with the AZA have opportunities for reintroduction to the wild, the vast majority of animals will spend their entire life in captivity. These animals are born into captivity, and will live out their days behind gates and glass windows with crowds of people ogling at them every day. That can’t possibly be good for their mental health.

“While the physical needs of animals are met in captivity, the conditions of confinement and exposure to humans can result in physiological stress,” a study by the National Library of Medicine found.

After I leave the zoo, I can’t help but feel a massive sense of guilt; all of these animals deserve to be outside and in the wild, and we’re using them as a distraction from our stressful lives. We use these animals to relieve stress, but we’re just causing them more anxiety.

And while animals are continually stressed out by us, going to zoos and interacting with nature provides us with incredible opportunities for happiness and enjoyment. “Access to nature has been shown to promote positive wellbeing and alleviate mild depression and anxiety in humans,” the National Library of Medicine said. “Modern zoos are consistently aiming to promote both animal welfare and positive human wellbeing.”

I love going to the zoo. That’s a fact. I’ve been going to the Denver and Cheyenne Mountain Zoos since I was born, and I love the San Diego Zoo just as much as the next person. I’m happy to go to the zoo and walk around with my family, learning about new animals and feeding giraffes lettuce, but every time I go, I can’t get over that guilty feeling. Zoos need to do more to help their animals feel better, both physically and mentally.

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About the Contributor
Quinn Rudnick
Quinn Rudnick, Junior Editor-in-Chief & Sports Editor
Hello, my name is Quinn Rudnick, and I am a junior at CCHS - and this is my third year on staff at the USJ. This year, I am the Junior Editor-in-Chief and Sports Editor. I hold a strong passion for both journalism and photojournalism, and intend to pursue a career in political journalism. As a journalist, I strive to present information to the student body and beyond in a factual and digestible fashion. I write a lot about local and global politics, as well as local theatre and events around the school. You can find me at a lot of Creek sports games, fueling my passion for sports photography and reporting. Outside of the USJ, I follow Formula One racing, the Nuggets and the Avs, and I love snowboarding.

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