Zoos are often not a very happy place for the animals that live there. They often live in enclosures that are far too small for them, don’t have proper socialization, and eat diets inappropriate for their species. Zoo animals often develop anxiety and depression. Zoos are not built or designed to keep animals healthy and happy; they essentially treat animals like objects. What they are designed for, though, is for humans to walk through at a leisurely pace and see as many animals as possible. It’s all about human convenience and enjoyment. And it isn’t for something necessary, such as food, it’s purely for entertainment.
For whom are we saving them? Certainly not for themselves. Can you imagine a giant panda saying, “Well, I am being artificially inseminated against my will repeatedly, and all of my offspring will live their entire lives in captivity and never know what it is to be free, but at least we won’t go extinct! Thank goodness for these clever humans for forcing me to reproduce!” No. Conservation without re-release into the wild (and that is what most breeding programs are) is not doing anything for the animals themselves.
When pressed, most people will say that we need to breed these animals “for future generations.” They mean for future generations of human children to gawk at in zoos. So the cycle continues.
Actually, I think we are “saving” all of these animals, not for the school children of tomorrow, but for the zoos themselves. Zoos are businesses. In a capitalistic society, businesses need to make money and grow to stay alive. They sell more tickets if they have a wider variety of animals, more exotic and endangered animals, and of course, baby animals.