For centuries, zoos have served as showplaces for animals who were put on display or forced to entertain humans. Human interest in animal spectacles dates back to at least 1500 BC when Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt built a zoo, and from there, thousands of zoos were built around the world by rulers who sought to demonstrate their wealth and power by exhibiting nature’s most rare, exotic and dangerous creatures.
Despite recent emphasis on education within zoos, many zoos still serve as grotesquely cruel prisons where nature’s most exquisite creatures will perish in the most shocking ways. Here are our Top 3 Worst Zoos in the World.
Top 3 Worst Zoos in the World
By Will Mountain
Out of tragic necessity, India’s Mumbai Zoo is rapidly transforming into a taxidermy museum. Due to its inability to replace animals that die in their cramped and filthy cages, zoo officials concluded that it would be better to stuff ‘expired’ animals and subsequently put them on display. The zoo’s remaining collection of roughly 750 (still living) mammals, birds and reptiles are now essentially waiting to die, at which point they will promptly be taken to the taxidermist to ensure that their exhibition continues even after death. The defence of this practice espoused by zoo officials centres on their intentions of making the best of a bad situation, as Mumbai Zoo director Sanjay Tripathi told the BBC in 2010, “the public will be able to see and appreciate the animals and even study their body structure.”
Apparently the public’s ability to “study the body structure” of captive animals enduring incredible suffering takes precedent over any sense of compassion or decency, at least in the eyes of those running the Mumbai Zoo. Many have argued, however, that if a facility does not have the resources to humanely treat and care for its animals, then that facility should forfeit its right to exist.
There are not many organisations working to save the Mumbai Zoo’s remaining animals, but you can look to PETA India and the Animal Welfare Board of India for more information.
2. Tirana Zoo
The zoo in Tirana, Albania’s Tirana Zoo, can more accurately be described as an animal prison, as the majority of its residents are kept in tiny, featureless rooms lined with tiles reminiscent of those found in shoddy hospitals. Monkeys sadly dwell in their bare cages, eagles cling to pitifully inadequate perches, and bears spend their days pacing in chain-link cages that are appallingly undersized. As photographer Paul Cohn writes in a Flickr caption, “[T]he staff have put up chain-link fence and mesh fence to keep people from throwing food and cigarettes into the cages, or sticking their fingers in to touch the animals. Visitors have tried to vandalize the fencing nonetheless.” Additionally, because there are very few zoos in Albania, the Tirana Zoo reportedly finds it extremely difficult to procure qualified staff and is grossly underfunded.
3. Pyongyang Central Zoo
It may come as no surprise that in a country essentially walled-off from the rest of the world, the walls and cages that house the collection of over 5,000 animals in North Korea’s Pyongyang Central Zoo are incredibly grim and isolated. According to a 2006 report by the Asia Times, a movie called “Fighting Animals” that was shot in the country (allegedly a wildlife documentary) actually showed caged animals — including some endangered species — fighting each other to the death. Making matters worse, due to the fact that many of the animals seen in the video can only be found in the Pyongyang Zoo, it seems highly likely that it was the zookeepers themselves who were involved in the production of the film. The North Korean zoo is located in western Pyongyang and was built under the guidance of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung in 1959.