The first known remains of a private collection of animals dates back to 3.500 BC, in Egypt. It is fruit of the expansion that humans started to make around the world, coming across species that caught their attention and awakened a desire to own them. Not until the 14th century did the concept of zoological garden really appear, with the private collection of Louis XIV, in the Palace of Versailles (France). It had no educational or scientific purpose or aim, the garden was kept merely for the king to be able to show off and the French aristocracy to be able to enjoy it. So, those collections of animals became a simple pastime associated with the upper classes, who tended to accumulate strange specimens in their gardens, as simple exhibition pieces. In the 19th century in the most populous cities, they also wanted to have access to animals to entertain their citizens. Private collections made way for zoos and in 1828 the first zoo to be known as such was opened in London's Regent’s Park. Zoos have been maintained since then as collections of living animals for exhibition and entertainment of the general public.
The vast majority of the animals in zoos are permanently living in terrible conditions. As living sentient beings that they are they need to carry out their natural behaviour in the habitat they are naturally adapted to. Using them, and especially specimens of wild species, for human entertainment, not only does not allow them to develop such behaviour (causing serious damage for their physical and psychological health), but also it numbs society in their empathy and respect towards other living beings.
Only 8% of the species kept in European zoos are part of a breeding programme.
Observing animals stuck in artificial surroundings and acting with behaviour which is not appropriate for their species, sometimes even stereotypic behaviour, lacks the educational function that zoos allege they develop. Similarly, the fact that a minuscule part of zoos in Europe have managed to reintroduce animals into the wild and only 8% of the animals in all European zoos make up a real conservation project, serves to prove that zoos just don’t contribute to the survival of species.
In the 21st century it is essential to rethink the current zoo model as a collection of animals for human enjoyment and work towards more ethical alternatives. The use of new technologies to help people learn to respect animals and the protection of their natural habitats, and in the medium term, reconverting zoos into rescue centres which offer a dignified retirement to those individuals that need it.
At the state level
Through InfoZOOS a coalition made up of the organisations ANDA, BORN FREE and FAADA, created to bring about effective change in the way wild animals are managed and treated in zoos.