Zoo Controversy (02:18)
Liz Bonnin investigates if zoos are becoming a thing of the past. Captivity can halve elephant life expectancy and change animal behavior.
Controversial Zoo Practice (01:58)
In 2014, the Copenhagen Zoo culled, dissected, and fed a 2-year-old giraffe to the lions—triggering global protests. Research director Bengt Holst was surprised by public reaction.
Culling Rationale (04:04)
Since the 1980s, zoos have taken a conservation approach; more than 90% of animals are born in captivity. The Copenhagen Zoo openly euthanizes surplus animals and feeds them to carnivores—drawing criticism from other European zoos.
Removing Elephants (05:05)
Most zoos keep large animals, and publish scientific papers about their welfare. Seeing their elephants failing to thrive in captivity, the Detroit Zoo moved them to a sanctuary—drawing criticism from the industry for publicizing the complex ethical issue.
Assessing Elephant Welfare (02:23)
Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan believes captive animals should thrive. A study of European zoos found female Asian elephants lived half as long as those in timber camps. In response, zoos tried to discredit the research.
Elephant Welfare Ultimatum (02:26)
Twycross Zoo Director Sharon Redrobe explains that stress and obesity limit elephant lifespan in captivity. British zoos must improve elephant welfare by 2021 or phase them out.
Stereotypic Behavior (04:59)
The Detroit Zoo introduced outdoor pens without understanding species’ needs. Captive carnivores often show abnormal, repetitive behavior. Professor Georgia Mason found that pacing reflects their range in the wild; polar bears are at highest risk. The zoo community criticized her suggestion of phasing them out.
SeaWorld Controversy (03:27)
The documentary "Blackfish" alleged that captivity compromises orca welfare. Veterinarian Dr. Chris Dold says Tilikum was not taught safety practices and killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau by accident in 2010. Studies shows orcas travel up to 100 miles in a day in the wild.
Cetacean Intelligence (02:52)
Tilikum has killed three trainers but Dold says there is no evidence of psychosis from captivity. The U.S. government banned SeaWorld from allowing trainers in the water during orca shows. Research shows dolphins have a sense of self.
SeaWorld Orca Welfare (02:05)
It is unknown whether cetaceans suffer or can adapt to captivity. Dold believes they thrive because they work readily with humans. Independent scientists refute SeaWorld claims that captive orcas live as long as wild counterparts; SeaWorld recently ended its orca breeding program.
Prioritizing Animal Welfare (03:51)
The Detroit Zoo invested in a large polar bear enclosure allowing them to make choices—important in natural behavior. Handlers report less stereotypical behavior. The zoo gave give up other exhibits to finance the expansion.
Conservation Approach (02:05)
Human development is destroying habitats. Dr. Jane Goodall makes the case for zoos conserving endangered species.
Captive Breeding Failures (03:18)
Conservation scientist Dr. Sarah Bexell says reintroduction programs send the false message that science can save species from extinction. Giant pandas have trouble surviving in the wild, due to habitat loss.
Northern White Rhino Captive Breeding Program (03:52)
Extinct in the wild, the species is dependent on zoos for survival. In the Czech Republic, Bonnin visits Nabire, one of five remaining individuals. Learn about failed reproduction attempts and female sterility.
Engineering Species Survival (03:26)
California scientists may attempt to use stem cells to create Northern White Rhino embryos; they would be implanted in a Southern White Rhino surrogate for gestation. Conservationists hope the program will prove that it is possible to bring back a species from extinction.
Future of Zoos (03:14)
Research shows that many large animals should not be in captivity, but many zoos are taking a species conservation approach and prioritizing animal welfare. In 2015, two Northern White Rhinos died, leaving just three.
Credits: Is It Closing Time for Zoos? (00:29)
Credits: Is It Closing Time for Zoos?
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