The whole concept of zoos is controversial, I know. On one side there is the argument that caging animals so that humans can come and gawk at them is cruel and unusual punishment for the animal species. On the other hand, zoos help educate us about geography, animal habitats, communication, health, ecology, etc. A great deal of research is conducted by major zoos the world over and life is enriched by zoological discoveries every day. As you might guess, I am of the latter camp. Zoos have alerted us to problems within the ecological chain, informed us of a world unknown to most of us, created avenues of cooperation world-wide, helped us understand people of different cultures and climates, encouraged intellectual learning and growth. And finally, zoos are fun, especially when shared with a friend (or grandchild, see here)! They are a fun way to learn, and by learning about the animal world, we become more conscious of our human world, the inter-/intra-dependence of humans and animals, and the necessity of maintaining a healthy, respectful balance. I am grateful for zoos!
See also here for a recent post on wildlife and zoos.