Just as we humans are, evolutionarily speaking, animals (because we definitely aren't microorganisms, fungus, or plants) and have freedom to choose what we want to do, the animals in zoos should have the right to be free. One of the major argument for saying NO is the preservation efforts for endangered species. However, in long term, this is not an issue. The stem cell research and cloning experiments are rapidly evolving. Sooner or later, we will be able to take samples and clone animals that have already gone or going to be extinct. The ethics of cloning is a whole different subject so I am not going to discuss here. In addition, there are hundreds of other species in brink of extinction. Why choose only certain species and not others? The animals don't have to be kept in the cage to prosper. It can be done in the wild. One of the example is conservation efforts of aiding turtles in central America. Activists make sure that babies hatch from the eggs and safely return to sea, completely in the wild. When I visited Melbourne, Australia, I saw the famous penguin parade. However, the conservation area was maintained as wild as it can be at the beach. There were no fences and no zookeepers. Their museum boasted that because of this kind of conservation effort, the small penguin population was able to recover from extinction. Yes, saving species from extinction is healthy as a whole population but providing freedom to animals is just as important for mental health.
On another note, humans are not at the top of the food chain. If we were not at the top of the food chain and someday, a form more superior than us comes to being, eventually, humans will be the ones living in captivity, stripped away from freedom and we may the ones at the extinction. This seems very far-fetched but when you think about it, humans are physically fragile animals. We do not have claws, sharp teeth, hardened skins, etc. We are easily gobbled up by sharks, tigers, and even wolves. It's a good reminder that we are not really at the top of the food chain and that we don't have the right/power to exert control and authority over other animal species.
Another point I want to make is the Mother Nature. As Darwin has mentioned, nature is about adapting, evolving, and being strongest. If we are removing animals from their natural habitat, the pressures and stimuli to adapt and change is removed. There is no incentive to invest energy to something necessary for survival. If humans continue to raise animal in captivity, in long term, it would be more detrimental for them. If global warming were to continue, those that have adapted to changes caused by global warming in the wild will be better fit for survival (and therefore, much healthier) than those who were nurtured and bred in captivity for generations.
Would you want to be locked up in a cage all day with people walking by staring and yelling at you? Animals were meant to be free in the wild. They are called wild animals for a reason. If an animals is going extinct and a male and female have been located then it is alright for them to be put in captivity for a little while so they can breed. Any other time they should be left alone.
I know that zoos are just trying to keep animals from being extinct, but if you think about it, keeping animals in cages and letting them cozy up to humans causes them to loose their primal instincts and be unable to fend for themselves. Giving them free food every day, instead of letting them find or hunt it for themselves. They should be able to run as far as they want, not just as far as a cage will allow.
I work at the Oregon Zoo and I have first-hand experience with our animals. And I can promise that the animals there are much happier and safer ar the zoo then anywhere. More so because letting our zoo-raised animals to run around in the wild can be quite dangerous, because they could never fend for them selfs. They would starve, be attacked, or be hunted. We have more than a couple exhibits that consist of rescues and letting them go would be a death wish, or choosing to leave them in the wild is far crueler than anything we could do at the zoo.
Let's face it guys the enviroment is shirnking and most of these animals are either losing their habitat or are on the brink of extinction due to poaching. Most of the animals in zoos come from foreign countries or places, so there is really nothing we can do to stop it. In the end these zoos may become the last refuge for them. We should reform the way we run them yes, make them safer and less stressful for the animals involved. But not ban them because out there in the wild they will die.