A trip to the zoo is exciting for kids and adults alike.
It is fascinating to see many rare animals. But zoos are struggling with limited capacity and the need to preserve diversity in the gene pools of endangered species.
There are two ways to control the population of zoo animals: One, by giving them birth control and the other one is by euthanizing them.
In the U.S., the zoos have chosen to give the animals birth control. The apes take the same birth control pills as humans while other animals get it in their food or have slow release hormones implanted in their bodies. Zoos in Europe let animals breed and raise their young, and then they kill the unwanted animals.
Most Americans do not agree with killing animals that are healthy, but the European zookeepers argue that euthanasia is the most humane option. It helps control the animal population and recreates the extremely high mortality rate that young animals face in the wild. Bengt Holst, director of conservation at the Copenhagen Zoo, and others believe that euthanizing the unwanted animals helps retain aspects of their natural behavior.
"We’d rather they have as natural behavior as possible. We have already taken away their predatory
behaviors. If we take away their parenting behavior, they have not much left,” Holst said.
In many European zoos, animals are allowed to raise their young until the age where they naturally separate from their parents. If the young animals do not fit into breeding plans for the species, they are killed.
Although it is safe for some animals, birth control does have side effects. Great apes tolerate pills well, because they are more similar to humans, but some big cats and canines develop uterine infections or tumors, as a result of hormonal birth control implants.