A common misconception is that zoo animals are mistreated. The reality of the situation today is entirely the opposite, the treatment of zoo animals almost borders on pampering. Animals in zoos are protected more than their wild counterparts and lead much safer lives and some would argue that they have it very easy.
The question often comes up, “Where do zoo animals come from?” Some people believe that expeditions are launched where animals are trapped in the wild and brought back for display in zoos in urban areas. While this may have been true 100 years ago, it is no longer the case. All exotic animals in zoos have been born in a zoo somewhere in the world. When a zoo gets a “new” animal, they are either borrowing the individual, or receiving it as a gift from a partner zoo to aid in research and conservation. The only animals that are taken from the wild and kept in zoos today are animals that have been rescued. This can happen if an orphaned animal is found or if a full grown adult is injured or caught in some way and needs human attention to survive. Animals taken in this way are usually cared for at the closest zoo with adequate facilities for the animal.
Animals living in zoos live much longer than the same species in the wild in many cases. This prolonged longevity in zoos can be attributed to many factors, most notably, the medical treatment available in zoos, the lack of predators, less stressful living conditions, and a constant reliable food source.
While under care of zoologists, animals have access to the most state of the art medical treatment available. Even the most basic of infections or illnesses can kill an animal in the wild, but when those animals are in zoos, infections and illnesses can be treated to extend their lives. Through advances in veterinary medicine vets and zoologists can treat most problems that come up and can fix broken bones or other physical injuries.
Zoo staff does not create habitats for animals that contain predator-prey situations. Animals that are normally prey in the wild do not have to worry about avoiding predators while in zoo conditions. This not only keeps them from being lunch for a larger animal, but cuts down on the stress load they undergo. Animals with no predators to worry about and no stressful situations has proven to result in longer life spans and presumably better quality of life too.
The final major contributor to longer life in zoos is the constant and reliable source of food. Zoo animals never go hungry due to lack of food or inability to catch or find anything to eat as they might in the wild. Zoos employ specialized dieticians who carefully construct each species diet and assure that the animals are fed at intervals appropriate to their natural eating cycles.