A zoo is a facility where animals are housed, cared for, displayed to the public, and bred in captivity. They often include animals that aren’t native, meaning they wouldn’t naturally be found in that part of the world.

Zoos provide the opportunity for endangered species to be cared for and protected. In other words, humans intervene to ensure that certain animals don’t become extinct. If an animal becomes extinct, it won’t exist anymore.

Modern zoos as we see them today were first established in the 18th century. The first ever modern zoo opened in Paris in 1793. During this time, knowledge of science and the world around us was expanding rapidly. This is known as the Enlightenment, as people’s understanding was enlightened with new scientific information.

The first zoos were used to show off as many animals as possible. Most animals during the 18th century were not bred in captivity but taken from their natural habitat to be put on display. There was little consideration for their animals, as they lived in small cages, and little effort was made to provide for their welfare.

Today, zoos put the care and welfare of the animals first. They are used as educational facilities to teach visitors about conservation and the importance of different animal species worldwide. Zoos are also used as research centers, meaning that the animals and habitats they live in are studied carefully to ensure that the species are cared for correctly.

If an animal is endangered, meaning it’s close to extinction, zoos often undergo breeding programs to ensure that it is saved from death. These are safe environments for animals to breed without the risks that their natural habitats might possess. These risks could include pollution, climate change, and human habitat destruction through deforestation, road building, or expanding cities.

The main goal of zoos is to reintroduce animals into their natural habitat when it’s safe. This includes breeding programs and mimicking their environment as close to their natural habitat.

What types of zoos are there?

There are many different types of zoos that you can visit. The most common type of zoo includes animals living in enclosures that replicate their natural habitat as close as possible. For example, penguins are kept in the same controlled environments they would experience in their natural habitat. Here is a list and meaning of the other types of zoos you can explore

Safari Parks

This is where the animals are often kept in large, outdoor enclosures that use moats or fences to restrict their animals. Visitors can drive through these parks to get close to the animals exhibited. This includes animals such as elephants, monkeys, or big cats species such as lions.


Inside an aquarium, you’ll discover animal species that live underwater, such as fish, species of whales, sharks, and other aquatic life forms.

Petting Zoos

This is where visitors are allowed to touch and hold the animals. Often, these are farm animals or species of animals that are safe to be around humans and pose little risk. This may include domestic animals such as rabbits, tortoises, or guinea pigs.

Theme Parks

Amusement parks that have roller coasters may also be used as zoos for amusement. They may include animals such as flamingos, dolphins, or whales.

Are zoos good or bad?

There is a lot of debate about whether keeping animals in zoos is doing more harm than good. This is because animals are in restricted locations and are away from where they naturally belong. In some places worldwide, animals may still be mistreated and live in poor conditions.

However, zoos also offer animals care and protection from risks that may mean their natural habitat doesn’t exist anymore. Zoos care for their animals, including vet care, if they become ill or injured.

Zoos are also needed to stop the extinction of animals. Zoos will often fight, fund, and petition for natural habitats to be saved for the protection of animals. For example, only around 45 Amur lemurs remain in the wild. Without zoos’ help, this big cat species would be extinct. But, with the help of zoos, over 200 have been able to be bred in captivity.

What animals will you find at a zoo?

You might discover hundreds of different animals and species when you visit a zoo. Here are some examples

  • Elephants
  • Lions
  • Tigers
  • Polar Bears
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Monkeys
  • Bats
  • Orangutans
  • Chimpanzees

Zoo animal facts for children

If you’re teaching young learners about zoos, why don’t you kickstart with some fun animal facts for children? For example, did you know

  • A zoo can give you a chance to see animals you might otherwise never get to see.
  • A Polar Bear’s hair isn’t white – it’s colorless! However, the reflection of light makes it look like the fur is white to our eyes.
  • Tigers belong to the cat family and are the biggest of their species.
  • Elephants are the world’s largest mammals.
Choose your Reaction!