Zoos are sad places to visit.

Visiting the zoo as a child was an intriguing experience. Seeing animals for the first time that I have only seen on tv or in books brought joy to my heart. So, why are Zoos sad places to visit?

My recent experience at the Hope Zoo in Kingston, Jamaica, brought me to this conclusion.

When was your last trip to the zoo? How was your experience? Do you think zoos are sad places to visit? I will share my experience at the hope zoo with you and other reasons; I believe zoos are dismal places to go.

Map of the Hope Zoo

Hope Garden next door to the Hope Zoo

There is always something going on at the park. Whether it be parties, cooperate functions, weddings, or photoshoots. Being the largest park in Kingston, everybody uses it. It is a vast property, so there is space for everyone.

There was not much going on, so I sat on a bench under a tree to relax. While listening to the birds sing and enjoying the cool afternoon breeze massaging my face, a thought came to mind.

Why not visit the Hope Zoo? It is a workweek; therefore, many people will not be there. So I walked over to Zoo which was nearby.

The entrance of the Zoo is clean and welcoming. There are pictures all over showing happy animals. I paid Jamaican $1,500 to a pleasant girl at the ticket office, then gave the security gate my ticket and entered.

Beautiful entrance at Hope Zoo

The birds were speaking Jamaican.

I am excited. That child in me is ready to explore. Visiting the zoo as a child was an enjoyable experience.

Gigantic palm trees at the entrance provided shade for the few birdcages on the side. There are also enormous billboards with oversize images highlighting the animals on display.

Near the entrance, a parrot caught my attention. It asked, “Wah ah gawn”? Which means what’s happening or what’s up? It compelled me to stop and chat.

No! I was not high_ there were no drugs in my system. People talk to animals all the time, not only Dr. Dolittle.

As I chat with him_ I felt his pain. He constantly bites on the cage as if he wants out. This parrot does not like being caged but does he understand freedom? He will probably spend his entire life locked up.

My headaches _wanted to let him go. But I was not ready to trade my freedom for his. Therefore, it was probably a bad idea. So I bid farewell and walked away feeling sad. That childhood excitement was only memories from a past life. Suddenly, the Zoo felt like a low place to visit.

The angelic songbirds

The most pleasant tune hit my ear canals as I roamed the property. I investigated. About twelve birds, not much bigger than a robin, crammed in a tiny cage signing like little heavenly beings. Their tunes were like nourishment to the ear. How could caged creatures make such angelic sounds? Every note pulled on my heartstring.

I always thought my heart was solid, but these tiny birds were making a mockery of it. Retreating was the best option, so I made a run for it.

The Macaw parrots in a tiny cage.

Further along, I came across the Macaw parrot. Giant posters with a large image of them advertising their cage. I walked over and saw nature’s most beautiful creation.

Parrot cage

About six or seven are in a tiny cages shared with some turtles. They are huge with colorful tail feathers, bright red, green, and blue covering their body. I have never seen such beautiful colors in nature. They looked like a cutout from a child’s picture book.

They clung to the cage with their pliers-like beaks in what seemed to be a desperate attempt to cut their way to freedom. It was an impossible task because their beaks stood no chance against the metal fencing. I imagined those creatures flying across the sky _free as nature intended.

Dejected, I walked away.

The macaw parrots at Hope Zoo

The contradictions at zoos make them dismal places to visit.

Looking at Hope zoo’s well-kept lawn, tall trees, and clean environment contrasts with the cage animals yearning for freedom. 

Native birds in the trees were singing and flying as if mocking those captives.

Gazebos of all different sizes with space host several people for birthday parties or meetings—a cool, clean, and inviting environment with many trees providing shade from the tropical heat.

Children are playing and having fun while animals are confined.

If that is not bad enough, they play loud music at those sensitive creatures’ ears, even at night. Loud music irritates even humans, so can you imagine those poor animals?

One of the many pavilions at Hope Zoo

Giant birds are kept in confinement.

I knew these birds were massive. Seen many images of them but seeing an ostrich up close is something else. These flightless birds weigh over three hundred pounds. Standing in front of a three-hundred-pound bird is intimidating.

So, I kept my distance; they could easily stretch their long neck over and hurt someone. You never know what caged animals are thinking.

The shared space with a pair of donkeys gives them little room to move comfortably. They cannot jog without hurting themselves more, so they sprint.

Maybe it would take them over 200 arc properties at Hope Garden for them to feel comfortable. Sharing space with donkeys is not much help either. Probably the Zera would be better since they are from the same habitat.

Then again, knowing the zebra’s tendency to kick might be a bad idea to confine them with other animals.

They must feel cramped inside a small space with only room to walk around. In their habitat, they have the freedom to search for food, and run at top speed for as long as their heart desire.

Now they are in a confined space, lying down most of the time, with no motivation to move because humans feed them. So they get little or no exercise.

These giant birds now have a sorrowful existence, imprisoned forever in a tiny cell. I wondered if humans were jealous of their independence and freedom, so they trapped them in tiny cages out of spite.

One of three ostriches at Hope Zoo

Killing the lion’s essence

One of the most secure cages a few meters away from some miniature horses and goats is the lion. The lion’s cage is the most secure of all the animals at the zoo. I guess being an apex predictor gives them special privileges. It would not be good for businesses if they were to gain freedom and exercise their independence. 

Even though they seem young, the wildness has faded from their eyes. As if they had lost hope of ever going back to the wild. They are pacing in their cage with an occasional growl at the mischievous spectators who bang on the cell to get action for their cameras. 

How depressing a beautiful, powerful and proud beast now reduces to a mere object for human entertainment.

From roaming over thousands of acres of land to pacing over a few meters. Hunting magnificent wildlife now diminished to sitting idle waiting for scraps of meat.

 Being a member of pride is a distant memory. The only thing close to a family is a mate they did not choose.

The childhood memory of excitement and the joy of seeing a lion for the first time is now elusive. Sadness and anger now fill that space. But how could this be? The zoo used to be a fun place to visit.

Capturing that childhood joy became impossible when I saw a grown man taunting the lion.

This imbecile! How can an adult be so childish? He was trying to amuse his children, but this was not amusing. Adults are to set good examples for their children. Not taunt caged animals already suffering.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom because the lion roars at 5 pm every afternoon. As if reminding everyone that he is still King of the Jungle even though he is in a concrete jungle. How long before he loses his essence and is just another big pussy.

The lion at Hope Zoo

The lonely zebra.

Next to the lion is a black donkey painted with white stripes or a white donkey painted with black stripes. That would be funny, but I am joking. Ha! Hah! It is a real Zebra.

Anyway, I am still puzzled. Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Well, according to the expert, they are black with white stripes. Click here to learn more.

One of the most inconsiderate things they could have done was caging a sociable animal alone. 

Imprison with just enough space to pace back and forth is the most severe punishment an innocent soul could receive. No safari to graze and play with family or friends. Just the faces of strange creatures steering and chattering in an unfamiliar vocal.

Frustration and hopelessness jump at me when I look into his eyes. I pitied this beautiful beast. He will suffer until the end.

Why are Zoos such sad places to visit? I have always loved animals but have never been so sentimental. 

Stock photo: A herd of zebras in the wild.

Caged kangaroos from the Australian outback.

This depressing scene repeats itself as it trod over to the kangaroos—beautiful animals in bondage with no hope of freedom.

It was surprising to see kangaroos at the Hope Zoo because they had no billboard. These three Australians looked young. They sat in the corner of their cage, contemplating. I am sure they have envisioned the impossibility of going back home and accepted their fate.

They will spend the rest of their lives in a cage with no hope of returning to the Australian Outback.

Hopelessness and despair a consistent themes featured in each cage.

Is there a better way to learn about these animals without putting them in bondage? Where humans can interact with them without taking away their freedom.

Kangaroo at the Hope Zoo in Jamaica
Hope Zoon Kangaroos

Captive squirrel monkeys at the Hope Zoo

Monkeys have intrigued me since childhood because they are so human-like. Therefore, I was looking forward to seeing the monkeys, hoping they would change the mood.

Huge poster with a squirrel monkey

The sight of them did not help; instead, it made things worst.

A troop of squirrel monkeys comprised about two dozen members, including infants. A dome shape structure that looked like a prison cell housed these creatures. Fine mesh covers the metal bars to prevent the monkey’s hands from going out. They resemble children inside a prison cell swinging on ropes and bars.

This tiny enclosure was not enough for the troupe because they were restless. These monkeys were romping about the cramped cage, occasionally stopping to pick up pieces of fruit. At the same time, infants cling to the backs of their mothers.

These strange-looking animals resemble squirrels with human a face. One climbed to the side of the cage and stared at me as if asking for help. For a moment, I could sense its pain. It causes me great anguish, with only tears left to follow.

Despite the squirrel monkeys’ confinement, they are the only mammal at the Hope Zoo with a community. Therefore, they can socialize as they would in the jungles of South America. However, it might make a living less stressful. It does not make up for the misery of spending their entire life in a cage.

Now I see why zoos are sad places to visit.

Caged squirrel monkey at Hope Zoo

What gives us the right to take away other creatures’ freedom for our entertainment and curiosity?

What if we cage humans like animals in zoos? Would they want their freedom taken away for the sake of someone’s entertainment and curiosity?

I am sure that humans would not give up their freedom. Fighting for freedom is a consistent theme for wars over centuries. People would rather die than have it taken away. If freedom is so important to us, why do we think it is ok to deprive animals of their liberty for our sake?

Not because we are on top of the food chain now makes us any more important than them.

Our superior brains allow us to create, but we only destroy what sustains us.

Although we behave like the most important species on earth, we are not. Having a large brain and walking upright is insignificant unless used to improve the planet.

The birds and bees serve a greater purpose in the grand scheme. So it is time for us to get back to earth and improve the planet.

Maybe the coronavirus is nature’s way of showing us how important we are. While humans are on lockdown, nature is striving. According to some experts, the planet’s health has improved significantly since the virus.

Human Zoos were in North America and Europe

Human Zoos existed in Europe and North America until 1958 In Belgium. Indigenous People from Africa, Asia, and America were displayed in zoos beside animals. These people were mocked and jeered and called savage. These exhibitions were to show the superiority of European culture and justify oppression and colonization.

Click here for images of Human Zoos up to 1958 in Belgium.

Millions of tourists visit these places. These exhibits were repulsive to some people, but others enjoyed them. Laughing and cheering at the antics of these people forced them to perform traditional dances and engage in mock fights to show their strength.

Human zoos did not end in North America because of protests or pressure from ordinary people but _during World War 2. The threat of economic collapse and the consequences of an ongoing war cause people’s interests to change. Therefore, human zoos were no longer a profitable venture.

Even though the practice ended in North America during World War 2, it took Europe about two decades. Belgium was the last European country to close Human Zoos in 1958 after pressure from the international community.

Learning this history of zoos makes it an even a more sad place to visit. Depriving of freedom for education, entertainment, and profit is so wicked.

Modern zoos help conserve and protect endangered species.

Although zoos are sad places to visit, modern zoos have been helping to conserve and protect endangered species. Some species would be extinct if it were not for the effort of conservationists and modern zoos.

Human destructive behavior has pushed some animals to the brink of extension. By hunting, destroying their natural habitat, or introducing invasive species that prey on animals with no defense against them.

The only place where some animals still exist on earth is in captivity makes zoos a sad place to visit. Some of these animals cannot release back into the wild because humans destroyed their homes. It is disturbing; a once abundant creature now only exists in zoos because of human behavior.

The golden lion tamarin monkey was saved from extinction by zoos.

The Jamaican iguana was brought back from the brink of extinction

One of the most heartwarming stories is in this place of sadness. The story of the Jamaican iguana. They were extinct for over fifty years until a local pig hunter discovered one in the Hellshire Hills of Saint Catherine. Sadly, it died from the hunter’s dog bite; however, this led to the discovery of more.

Since the 1990s, the Hope Zoo has led in the conservation and reintroduction of Jamaican iguanas into the wild. They have been successful; however, the danger remains.

Mangoes imported into the country to control sugar cane rats feed on the iguana young and their eggs. Also, feral cats and human encroachment are challenges. There are plans to create a sanctuary on goat island for them. Goat Island is an uninhabited island off the coast of Jamaica.

The almost-extinct Jamaican iguana

Set the animals free

I know that Zoos educate people about wildlife and also preserve endangered species. But It does not change the fact that zoos are sad places to visit.

Hope Zoo needs to set these animals free.

Set the animals free?

What do you mean?

It is simple; the zoo is on a 200-acre property, so they need fencing so that no animals can get to the surrounding community. Then can create a replica of the animal’s habit. It would be easy because a natural water source and many trees are already on the property. However, they need to plant more fruit trees.

Release the animals in phases. Start with the ones that can adapt quickly with little human intervention; next, those who need help. Ensure that animals can mate and are fertile.

Limit human presence on the property to only those caring for the animals. Because the animals will need help with food until enough food is naturally available to sustain them.

Predators such as crocodiles and lions should release last when enough large animals are reproducing to sustain them. If there are not enough animals to support large predators, they should stay in cages or send back to their homes. So the Hope zoo would become an animal sanctuary.

When the animal population reaches sustainable numbers, then they can start having tours. Just like they do on the African Safari or the Jungle. The animals would be in an environment where they are free. Living the way animals live in the wild. Humans can observe and admire them from a distance.

Animals enjoying nature

Is it cruel to keep predators and prey in the same environment?

But that isn’t kind. How can people put lions in the same space as zebras and goats?

No. It is not cruel.

The cruel thing is to put animals in cages, take them from nature and change their essence. Which makes Zoos sad places to visit. But that is human nature interfering with the natural order of things for curiosity and entertainment.

If humans want exotic animals on display, they create a natural environment where they can be who they are. Done put them in sad places like the zoo. If you think they are too dangerous to be free? Don’t take them from their habitat.

Not all animals can be cute and cuddly. We have done enough damage to cats and dogs already. Most dogs would starve without their owners because they live a pampered life.

If humans should go extinct because of a virus that only kills humans, so will our beloved pets. Their death will not be from a viral disease but from starvation. It would be our fault because humans have taken away their essence, which animals need to preserve.

Crocodile at the Hope Zoo

Are all zoos sad places to visit?

Are all zoos sad places to visit, or just some? Can animals be happy in captivity? I guess we will never know until animals speak a language we understand. We all know some experts can guess an animal’s emotions but are they correct?

Some studies suggest that some animals live longer in captivity than in the wild. Others dispute this claim. Let’s put ourselves in these animals’ paws. Would you rather spend 100 years living in a prison cell cut off from the world or 85 years as a free person?

No one would want to spend a lifetime in prison, so why should animals spend a lifetime in captivity? I don’t think they want to give up the freedom and dangers of the wild for safety in a cage. Animals living in cells are like death. The essence of what they are is dead, so they might as well kill their flesh.

What is your experience like at the zoo? Are Zoos sad places to visit?