Is the zoo for you?

People have been holding and exhibiting wild animals privately for thousands of years, with royals and others keeping menageries of exotic animals. The modern public zoo got its start a little more than 200 years ago as scientific study about animals accompanied the Age of Enlightenment. What we think of as a modern zoo opened in 1793 in Paris.

Variations on zoos include wildlife parks and game reserves, which offer more open area for animals to roam and may allow members of the public to drive through on their own or with an escort. Some locations rehabilitate sick or injured animals for release back into the wild or a home if they are not able to be released.

Zoo websites allow people to “visit” a zoo virtually to learn about animals and see pictures and video. Click on the picture below to see a video of a jaguar cub at the San Diego Zoo, the largest in the United States.

Want to learn more? Visit the website for the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its virtual zoo includes pictures and facts about animals, and a search function allows you to locate zoos and aquariums for an in-person visit.

Zoos are not without controversies, which range from concern about the physical and psychological stress of keeping animals in enclosures, issues of how they are cared for and fed, and what happens when more animals are in captivity than can fit available space. Zoo proponents argue that the locations provide a safe environment and enhance public knowledge and action while offering efforts to research animals and promote conservation of species and habitat that is or may become endangered.

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