After seeing animals in the wild in South Africa, our views on having animals in captivity changed a lot. However, the 125-acre Phoenix Zoo may have just proven that having animals at a Zoo is not necessarily cruel or means that the animals will be treated horribly. Yes, you will find the bad eggs within the Zoo – employees who really do not care, but as a Phoenix Zoo employee sung the praises of the Zoo during our Safari train tour, her passion for the zoo was so strong, and genuine. She even proudly boasted about their world-class status and about how the Phoenix Zoo trains many, many others about how to properly care for Elephants. Hearing the passion this lady has for the Phoenix Zoo, made us realize that some deeper digging needed to be done.
The first thing we noticed as we walked past the first few enclosures is that the Phoenix Zoo prides itself on behavioral enrichment, where the environmental enhancement of the lives of animals in a managed setting by providing them with mental and physical stimulation to increase natural and healthy behavior. Animals are given a sense of control by allowing them to make choices and to stimulate species-appropriate behaviors. The elephant enclosure photo below is a great example of this.
The animals seem well taken care of, and their enclosures are also well taken care of. There is a wide variety of animals and the layout takes you through each exhibit nicely and we liked how authentically the exhibits are displayed.
The narration on the 25-minute safari train was informative, mixed with a bunch of dumb jokes to add some personality, and was a great way to get a glimpse and orientation of the whole park. The train ride gives you a great view of most animals.
The “add-on” activities are pretty reasonable: Feeding a giraffe was $5 per person and the camel ride was $5 per person.
After some deeper digging, these are the conclusions we have reached about the Pros of Zoos:
- Zoos assist in species survival – Valuable genetics aren’t lost for those animals who are endangered. These animals are brought into a safe environment, where they are protected from poachers, habitat loss, starvation and predators.
- Some animals are able to be reintroducing species back into the wild.
- Conservation – Zoos do a ton of conservation work, trying to forestall the inevitable extinction of animals we love.
- Zoo animals are taken care of by top notch staff who are skilled professionals.
- Animals are able to eat diets for optimum nutrition and body condition.
- Education and outreach – People can’t become passionate about saving animals they have never heard of. It teaches us that animals have rights and a will to live. Seeing animals up close has a greater impact than watching animals on television. We loved that we could introduce our daughter, Madison, to so many incredible animals.
- Research – Being able to study animals in zoos where there is less risk and less variables means real changes can be effected on wild populations with far fewer problems. This knowledge can make a huge difference to conservation efforts.
In a nutshell, Zoos keep animals alive. Every animal species deserves the chance to live.
“Think of zoos as an ark, sheltering animals from a storm of human greed and ignorance until the world is made safe for them again.” (Source)
We are perfectly willing to recognize that there are bad zoos and bad zoo exhibits do exist in the world. Not all animals are kept perfectly, as much as we wish it were otherwise and even in the best situations, there might still be room for improvement. We did, however, feel that at the Phoenix Zoo all animals were well cared for. The Phoenix Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
Where is a Zoo that you fell in love with?