A zoo is a place where animals live in captivity and are put on display for people to view. The word “
” is short for “zoological park.”
contain wide varieties of animals that are native to all parts of the Earth.
Though people have kept wild animals for thousands of years, those collections have not always resembled modern
. The first
were created as private collections by the wealthy to show their power. These private collections were called menageries.
Wall carvings found in Egypt and Mesopotamia are evidence that rulers and aristocrats created
as early as 2500 BCE. They left records of expeditions to distant places to bring back exotic animals such as giraffes, elephants, bears, dolphins, and birds. There is evidence that ancient
owners hired animal handlers to make sure their animals thrived and reproduced.
also existed in later civilizations, including China, Greece, and Rome. The Aztec emperor Montezuma II, in what is today Mexico, maintained one of the earliest animal collections in the Western Hemisphere. It was destroyed by Hernan Cortes during the Spanish conquest in 1520.
The model of the modern, public
became popular in 18th century, during the Age of Enlightenment. The
Age of Enlightenment
was a period in European history when science, reason, and logic were promoted as ideals of society and government. The scientific focus of the
Age of Enlightenment
extended to zoology.
During this time, people started wanting to study animals for scientific
. Scientists wanted to research animal behavior and anatomy. To do this, scientists and
had to keep animals in places that were close to, or
, the animals’ natural habitats.
The first modern
, built in 1793, opened in Paris, France. The
of French aristrocrats, including the king and queen, were taken by leaders of the French Revolution and relocated to the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes. The facility is still a busy and popular
in downtown Paris.
like the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes were more like museums of living animals than natural
. Animals were kept in small display areas, with as many species as space would allow.
are meant to entertain and educate the
but have a strong emphasis on scientific
and species conservation. There is a trend toward giving animals more space and recreating natural
are usually regulated and inspected by the
Types of Zoos
Urban and Suburban Zoos
, located in large cities, still
that were popular 200 years ago. Often, these
sit in the middle of cities, making expansion difficult. There is little room for
to grow, and many of the
’s buildings are historic landmarks that cannot be
, animals are kept in relatively small enclosures. Some animal activists argue that keeping animals in
settings is cruel because of cramped conditions, noise, and pollution.
are common in Europe, while many
in the United States developed as sprawling parks in
outside cities. These open-range
give animals more territory to roam and provide more natural
. This popular technique of building realistic
is called landscape immersion.
The San Diego Zoo, in southern California, is the largest
in the United States. It is a
that houses more than 4,000 animals (800 different species) in its 0.4 square kilometers (100 acres).
divides animals into their natural
, such as the tundra (with reindeer and polar bears) or bamboo forest (featuring pandas.) The
also includes a wild animal park, which is even more expansive (almost 8 square kilometers or 2,000 acres.)
, safari parks
are areas where tourists can drive their own cars to see non-native wildlife living in large, enclosed areas. These attractions allow the animals more space than the small
, in Susono, Japan, offers a traditional
as well as a drive-through
. Visitors can take their own cars or one of the park’s buses. Fuji
offers night tours, so visitors can see nocturnal animals, or animals that are active at night. At the park, visitors can also feed some animals, such as lions, from bus windows. Not all parks encourage or even allow visitors to feed animals.
, especially in Europe, are often part of larger theme parks or resorts. They include golf courses and fairground attractions, such as games and rides.
are large swaths of land whose ecosystems and native species are protected. The protections allow animals to live and
at natural rates. Animals are allowed to
In the 1800s, a trip to hunt “big game” (large animals such as elephants or lions) was called a
. While some
today, others limit visitors to a “photo
,” where visitors can shoot photographs, not animals.
Animals in all
are protected from illegal
, which is a threat to many endangered species. Legal
are regulated by the
must purchase licenses and are strictly limited to the type and number of animals they can
. Poachers, or
without licenses, kill animals for valuable body parts. Elephants, for example, are killed by
for their ivory tusks.
in Asia, the Americas, and Australia. However, most
are in Africa. Millions of visitors flock to sites across Africa to see the same animals that captivated audiences thousands of years ago. The biggest attractions are Africa’s “Big Five” species—lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and water buffalo. The
are not Africa’s largest species (although the elephant is): They are the most difficult to find and, when legal, to
Only recently has a single
, Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa, offered all
animals in one place. Gondwana sits on 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) near the center of South Africa’s southern coast. Like many large
, Gondwana has diverse
that occur naturally and has no need for
. In Gondwana, grasslands coexist with shrubland called fynbos. Visitors to Gondwana, like many
, can stay in hotels right in the park.
feature domesticated animals that are gentle enough for children to pet and feed. Sheep, goats, donkeys, and rabbits are common
These types of
are found at parks and inside of larger
. Sometimes mobile
travel with fairs or carnivals from city to city.
for specific animals.
in cold climates, such as Novosibirsk, Russia, must recreate warm
for animals like lemurs.
are a type of primate native to the island of Madagascar, off Africa’s east
. The summer temperatures of both Siberia and Madagascar are about the same—around 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
However, Madagascar receives about 200 to 250 millimeters (8 to 10 inches) of rain each summer, making it a humid jungle environment. Novosibirsk gets just 60 to 65 millimeters (2 to 3 inches) of
and snow. The difference in winter
is even more drastic: Madagascar is about 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit).
’ fur can keep them warm at this
. Winter in Novosibirsk is -10 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit). The Novosibirsk
has two species of
are dedicated entirely to certain species. Aquariums are types of
that exclusively house aquatic animals. The Sydney
in Australia has exhibits of all of Australia’s major water systems and is home to more than 650 native Australian species.
Aviaries and bird parks are another type of
. The Jurong Bird Park in Singapore has more than 8,000 birds of 600 species from around the world. Jurong has more than 1,000 flamingoes in an African wetlands
that features a daily simulated thunderstorm.
The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the international organization for
, is concerned with the health of animals in
. The focus of environmental efforts takes the form of
, captive breeding of rare animals, and
can study animals up-close. They can observe
such as mating and nutrition choices. Biologists and veterinarians are also available to treat sick or injured animals.
valuable places for animal survival. Animals such as the black soft-shelled turtle, native to India and Bangladesh, are extinct in the wild. But they survive in several
around the world, with their health looked after by
The goal of many
is the re-introduction of animals into the wild. The California condor, a very large bird native to the west
of the United States, has been re-introduced to its native
after breeding in
parks. There are several breeding pairs of
in the wild today.
programs say that releasing a few animals into the wild does little to help the species population. Animals are extinct in the wild
largely due to loss of
. The re-introduction of animals, especially large mammals that require vast territory for survival, does nothing to recover lost
. People continue to develop land for homes and businesses.
projects in the native
of the animals they keep in captivity. For instance, the
World Association of
established a partnership with people in rural Papua New Guinea to save tree kangaroos. These rare species are threatened by loss of
and the growing population of Papua New Guinea: Villagers
for meat. A
program introduced a rabbit-farming program to address the
needs of the villagers.
also set up
sites where the
have put more importance on
and humane animal treatment in recent decades, some critics say it is cruel to keep animals in captivity. Critics argue that living in captivity takes away wild animals’ natural
and instincts. Supporters of
say they play an important role in protecting
People still enjoy collecting animals to display in their private homes. The American entertainer Michael Jackson, for instance, had a menagerie that included tigers, giraffes, parrots, and, of course, his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles.
The Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar kept an enormous private zoo that included elephants, buffalo, and camels. Some of Escobar's hippopotamuses, native to Africa, escaped into the Colombian jungle. After Escobar's death, the rest of the animals were sold or donated to zoos around the world.
City of Brotherly Animals
The first zoo in the United States opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1874. The Philadelphia Zoo remains one of the most important zoos and facilities for breeding rare and endangered animals.
Many books of fiction, nonfiction, and historical fiction concern zoos.
Life of Pi is a novel by Canadian author Yann Martel. The father of the main character, Pi, is a zookeeper at the Pondicherry Zoo in India. When traveling across the Pacific Ocean, from India to Toronto, Canada, the boat carrying Pi, his family, and all the animals of the zoo sinks. The only survivors, alone on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, are Pi and the zoo's Bengal tiger, whose name is Richard Parker.
Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War is a nonfiction book written by Yukio Tsuchiya and illustrated by Ted Levin. The book tells the story of three elephants of the Uneo Zoo in Tokyo, Japan, in the time leading up to World War II.
Pride of Baghdad is a graphic novel written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Niko Henrichon. The factual story, of lions that escaped from the Baghdad Zoo as the war in Iraq began, is told from the lions' point of view.