The oldest known zoo

Following the 2009 finding of a wide variety of animals

It is believed that the oldest known zoo has been around since 3500 BC. Thus, zoos—also known as animal parks, zoological gardens, or menageries—have been around for a very long period in history and have always been associated with humans. There is a controversy, however, following the realization that animals tend to suffer from solitude and other challenges, with the issue sparking debate on the benefits and challenges that zoos present. Considering the lonely lifestyle led by Hanako the elephant, it is affirmed that zoos deprive animals the freedom to coexist and live freely as they would experience in their natural habitat.


Historically, the earliest zoos that existed did not feature animals especially those that existed in the Western Hemisphere but instead it was composed of people with different traits such as dwarfism or albinism. For example, the Ota Benga was an example of a human exhibit that was common in zoos and lived in Bronx Zoo and St. Louis as late as 1906 (Vittana, 2017). Nevertheless, zoos have existed for a long time and have primarily acted as centers for carrying out breeding programs to overcome genetic bottlenecks that have been a challenge for the endangered species. It is the primary reason for the existence of zoos throughout history with records indicating that the background of the establishment of zoos is as long as the existence of human beings (Vittana, 2017). In the past, some of the animals would be endangered, and hence the idea of keeping them in a zoo ensured that those that were close to extinction were protected. However, thought-provoking issues have since been noted as ethical concerns are continually being raised over the likelihood of abuse of personal effects of the animals or the use of such facilities for political gain.


The debate on whether zoos are necessary or whether they need not to have been created has thus necessitated the need to examine the benefits and problems associated with these animal cages. The primary advantage from zoos is that they are an excellent educational resource where children and families can be taught about different animals. The staff at the zoos are often knowledgeable enough about the animals, and regardless of one’s socioeconomic status, one can always learn something useful at the zoo. The other benefit associated with zoos is that they provide protection for endangered animals with the greatest risk of poachers being apparent. Lastly, the zoos have been used for a long time as a place where animals can receive humane treatment (Vittana, 2017). Some animals are extremely rare and they need to be treated well for them to survive and increase in population. The best-known case is that of the Przewalski horse that was found in the wild in 1966. 13 horses were captured considering the unique presentation of 66 chromosomes instead of the typical 64. Following their rehabilitation, they survived, and there are more than 1500 such horses today. It thus underscores the fact that zoos can be benefiting to animals when they serve their right purpose.

However, there have been concerns associated with zoos

As critics often argue that they deprive animals their rights to coexist naturally. The ethical dilemma means that concerns are raised over the likelihood of loneliness being a factor in reducing the lifespan of animals kept in the zoo. The widely known case is that of Hanako, who has lived in Tokyo’s Inokashira Park Zoo for almost six decades. Ulara Nakagawa, a concerned visitor to the zoo, noted the elephant’s state and described the experience in his blog post as, “Totally alone in a small, barren, cement enclosure with absolutely NO comfort or stimulation provided, she just stood there almost lifeless—like a figurine” (National Geographic Society, 2015). Many other elephants have been reported to live lonely lives including 38-year-old Teru at Kofu City Yuki Park Zoo, 40-year-old Himeko at Himeji City Zoo, and Izumi, an elephant that died at 62 years at Kiryugaoka Zoo (National Geographic Society, 2015). The associated setbacks thus include the likelihood that the life of captivity could change how an animal behaves, zoos being perceived as recreational facilities and the fact that there is no guarantee for species survival (National Geographic Society, 2015).


Having explored the subject in its entirety, I believe that zoos are not necessary considering the adverse effects that they cause to the animals. It is hypothetical that they are educational facilities that enable the animal to thrive especially if they are endangered, but the reality is that animals can survive better on their own. The case of Hanako the elephant dying a lonely life while people watched her helplessly is depressing and disheartening and requires the reexamination of ethics associated with keeping animals. To overcome the greatest challenge of poaching that necessitated zoo creation, it is recommended that stringent policies are enacted to ensure that those found poaching face extreme legal action to stop the vice altogether.


National Geographic Society. (2015). These Zoo Elephants May Be the Loneliest in the World. National Geographic Partners, LLC. Retrieved from

Vittana. (2017). 21 Pros and Cons of Zoos. Vittana. Retrieved from


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