I'm curious about things having to do with zoos, and am asking for guidance about whether or not this subject is on-topic.

I imagine most of the questions would need to be localized to a city, state, or country, so they would all include that information.

These represent some of the types of questions I might want to post:

  • What are the criteria for a collection of animals to be a zoo, or, more simply, what constitutes a zoo?

  • How/when (best time of year) would I be likely to find a (specific) animal in a (specific) zoo?

  • How are animals chosen to co-exist in a zoo?

  • What qualifies a person to be a zookeeper?

  • What's the difference between a zoo and a wildlife park?

If some of the questions are too specific, or too scientific, I may need to re-think those. If I could keep them in the realm of animal/wildlife watching or behavior, would that be the best way to approach the topic?

  • I think behavior might be ok. However, I suspect most predators in zoos are insane from boredom.
    – ab2
    Oct 29, 2016 at 22:28
  • I'd expect not, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ only one way to find out.
    – Kevin
    Oct 31, 2016 at 1:23
  • @Kevin Yup, without specific guidelines, I guess I have to decide if I dare to test the waters! Those are cool symbols! Oct 31, 2016 at 22:37
  • @ab2 I've always thought all animals in zoos are insane from boredom. That's why I question the reason for having them in the first place, but that's a whole other can of worms and I'm not intending to open it. I'll leave that to the fishermen/women on the site-ha, ha! Oct 31, 2016 at 22:40
  • After rereading the answers to this meta Q, I think that your recent Q about animals painting is a bit on the wrong side of the line as to on-topicness. JJ quoted my answer as his reason for not voting to reopen, and I reluctantly agree with him. Sorry! I think the Q can be saved, but it would have to be rewritten, not just tweaked. Maybe turned into another Q entirely. My thought is to ask a Q about evidence for or against an esthetic sense in some animals in the wild. Continued in next comment
    – ab2
    Jan 9, 2019 at 14:09
  • continued -- Within my lifetime, evidence has been found for tool use and tool making and the ability for some species to recognize themselves in a mirror. Surprisingly, not just apes use tools, but ravens both use and make tools. I'd hinge the Q about evidence for esthetic sense (maybe not the best word) on these new understandings of animal cognition. If you have a new question, you can refer to the answers on the old Q about toxicity and coercion and make the question much more neutral as to your concerns abt animal welfare (with which I totally agree, but did raise a flag for some.
    – ab2
    Jan 9, 2019 at 14:14
  • more -- Another handle to the new question, if you decide to do it, it that some animals seem to enjoy painting. I wouldn't refer to penguins or snakes, but to the animals with real brain-power. @James Jenkins what do you think about the approach in these three long comments as an alternate to the animal painting Q?
    – ab2
    Jan 9, 2019 at 14:24
  • 1
    The main reason why I voted to close the question on zoo was because I felt it was you asking if it is OK to treat the animals the way they are treated in a zoo (the question had too many personal opinions in it to make it concise). For me, there is no definitive way to answer that. It's a lot more opinion than anything else. Also, I do not think zoo in itself would be grossly out of scope. If we focus on animal behaviour, it would still be on topic. Jan 10, 2019 at 9:42

3 Answers 3


I think you have to test the waters.

Questions about the role of zoos in saving endangered or threatened species or preserving diversity in their genomes would be on topic. Questions about how animal behavior studies in zoos help or mislead understanding of animal behavior in the wild would be on topic. Questions about how educational programs affect attitudes to wild animals and wilderness would be on topic.

A question about the different kinds of zoos from roadside petting "zoos" at one end of the spectrum to places like the facility run by the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Insititue at (or near) the other end of the spectrum would be on topic.

As to a question about the education and training required to be a zoo-keeper, I'm not sure. If such a question about pandas, for example, were connected to panda conservation, it might be.

What I seem to have concluded it that questions about zoos that connect with the animals in their natural habitat are on topic, but questions about zoos as entertainment, even entertainment with a surface gloss of education, are not. (And some official, respectable zoos along the spectrum will have only a self-promoting surface gloss of education.)

My judgment (which is opinionated, but not a prejudice, which means pre-conceived opinion) is that a zoo can justify itself if the benefit to animal species outweighs the harm it inflicts on the animals behind its bars or moats, however that can (or cannot) be measured. I recognize that in some cases, the harm may be minimal, zero, or that some individual animals may benefit from being in a zoo and not the wild. But the bear that still haunts Erik suffered. Longevity by itself is not everything.

One Result of Testing the Waters: the Jan 2019 question about teaching a zoo marine animal to paint was judged to be off topic because it was too heavily slanted towards the entertainment value of sea mammal in an aquarium.

  • 3
    +1 I like this answer better then mine. If mine had not generated all those comments I would delete mine. Nov 24, 2016 at 11:24
  • 3
    @James Jenkins Thanks! Our answers complement each other, and I think yours needs to be kept, with comments, because it tried some quantitative analysis.
    – ab2
    Nov 25, 2016 at 4:27
  • Hi ab2 and @JamesJenkins! Thanks for the help with the question. I think it could go either way according to these answers, especially James, where you defend the zoo topic. I think it's TGO even though the animals are inside, like climbing gyms where the activity is inside but the enjoyment is also TGO. My bottom line is that it would be hard to find actual proof, which is what I wanted. It matches a lot of opinion-based questions which are still open, but I'm not going to edit any more and am fine with letting it close! Adding it to this answer makes sense! Jan 11, 2019 at 0:28
  • By the way, there's a reopen vote on it, but it's not mine. It probably won't stay there for long! Jan 11, 2019 at 0:30

I believe questions about Zoo's are on topic here. For the same reason that Erik argues they are not. If we consider Zoo's to be parks which is a reasonable argument and search for a existing Q&A about park & wild we find, TGO has slightly more about parks then wild. While not definitive it does show that questions and answers about parks are in scope.

While the questions are in scope, I believe they are also in scope at Biology where they have 23 existing post with 'zoo' to the 4 we have at TGO. The pool of experts at Biology.SE are likely to provide better answers to questions about animals in zoos then the experts at TGO.

Each site stands on it's own, what is in or out of scope at one SE site has no bearing on other SE sites. Except at proposal/launch when a critical study is conducted, looking for negative impact from a new site to existing sites.

Summary Yes you can ask questions about Zoo's here, but most of your examples would likely find better answers at Biology. Your 5th question "What's the difference between a zoo and a wildlife park?" seems like a great one for TGO, you should ask it.

  • 3
    I think there is a big difference between a national park and a city park which your search doesn't distinguish between. In my opinion care and maintenance of a city park is off-topic, and I view zoos like a city park. That being said if the community wants to allow these questions I wouldn't have a big problem with it. I hate that I seem to be always saying no to Sue on meta. I posted my answer because after about a month with no answers I though her question deserved an answer even if in my opinion it would be a no.
    – Erik
    Nov 23, 2016 at 15:27
  • 3
    Out of your 423 results with park, when I eliminated a bunch of the national park, car parking, caravan parks, and limit it to questions I came up with 24 results. There are only two questions that seem to be within a city park scope. One is about skateboard bearings, and the other is about picnics. To compare if we search for wild and restrict it to just questions we get 108 results.
    – Erik
    Nov 23, 2016 at 15:46
  • 5
    Also the 4 zoo results are all answers. two of which mention zoo along the lines of "its not a zoo," one discussing feeding wild animals like a zoo, and the other mentions using a zoo to get over fear of snakes. If the community wants zoo questions then that is great. I just think your searches were a bit misleading.
    – Erik
    Nov 23, 2016 at 15:47

I don't think zoo specific questions are really on topic. A zoo isn't really the outdoors in my opinion. A zoo is really more like a city park. Since your sample questions seem to be more about the care, maintenance, and promotion of a zoo I would think they're off-topic just like if they were about a city park. I do think questions about wild animals where the zoo is an incidental part of the question are on topic. So a question like "how do I get a job as an elephant trainer in the zoo?" would be off topic, but a question like "I saw an elephant swimming at the zoo. Do they swim for fun in the wild?" would be on topic.

Of course this is just my opinion.

On a personal note about zoos since it was brought up in the comments.

Growing up I loved zoos. As an adult I once saw a grizzly bear in a Swedish zoo that wore a deep path into the ground along the edge of their enclosure due to relentless pacing. For years after that I was really uncomfortable in zoos. After having kids and taking them to zoos I've come to terms with that bear and zoos in general. I think they serve a purpose even though the sight of that bear was haunting. That being said I hope I never see something like that bear again, because even writing about it after so long is disturbing to me.

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