A Circus and a Zoo are NOT the Same Thing [OPINION]
With the closing of the Ringling Bros circus, a lot of people are calling for the closing of zoos, too. It's okay to have an opinion, but get your facts on zoos straight first.
First of all, I admit: I'm biased. I worked at a zoo for eight years from high school, all the way through college. I babysat for a little boy (who is about to get married!!) who lived down the street from me, and his dad said, "When you turn 16, I'll get you a job at the zoo." So, that's exactly what I did. I worked there until I was 24.
I worked at the sea lion show and the special exhibit, which varied from summer to summer. Butterflies, sting rays, animatronic dinosaurs, etc. I picked up garbage three to four times a day, sometimes more. Either way, it was a perfect job for me - I worked long hours during the summer, and worked on weekends when I was in school.
And I LOVE animals. Always have, always will. So this was kind of a dream for me.
Now, with the closing one of the largest circuses in the country, I've seen a lot of people calling for the closing of zoos, too.
STOP IT. EDUCATE YOURSELF ON IT.
One of the first things I noticed from working at the zoo was how passionate the zookeepers and trainers were about their jobs. They genuinely love and care for those animals. And they're all very well educated in what they do. We had a couple of people in our department that were working towards being zookeepers, and it's no easy task. Bachelors degrees, masters degrees, moving around the country to work their way up from intern to keeper. But they all had one thing in common: their love for the animals.
One of the biggest parts of many zoos are their conservation efforts. A lot of animals that are kept in zoos are endangered. About 21% of the world's mammal species, about 12% of birds and 33% of all amphibian species are about to become extinct. Zoos protect a lot of these animals, and also have breeding programs to increase their numbers. They work closely with each other, transferring animals between facilities when needed.
Case in point: one of the sea lions at our zoo wasn't doing well. He had a lot of anxiety and social problems, and was throwing up in the pool and eating it during shows. So, they transferred him to another zoo where he could receive more one-on-one attention.
They also host a ton of educational programs. In fact, while I was working at the zoo, they completed a conservation education center on the property that offers educational programs for kids AND adults. They're also part of bird and bat conservation programs around the world.
In short, there is no animal abuse happening at zoos. Say what you want about the circus; I get it. But zoos are NOT the same thing. Now, of course, if we're talking about a teeny tiny little "zoo" that's run by a guy named Jethro on three acres of land behind his house, that's different. And it's easy to spot that out. But, for the most part, zoos do good things for animals. Please don't over-generalize them with other organizations that treat their animals poorly.
And, finally, I learned that animals are, in fact, nicer than people. But I knew that already.