At the Zoo


A zoo is a place where you keep and show animals. Adults and children all over the world like visiting zoos. Almost every large city in the world and lots of smaller towns have zoos. They have gardens and paths that lead from one area to another. Modern zoos have gift shops, restaurants and buildings where you can learn about animals and nature. Some zoos have special areas where visitors can feed or even touch animals.

Every zoo keeps a different selection of animals. Many large zoos keep mammals, birds, reptiles and fish from all over the world in separate areas.

Zoos have many functions. Visitors can have fun and get information. Zoos also help to save wildlife. Some of the world’s animals are in danger of becoming extinct and zoos give them a place to survive. You can see animals that you may never see in your life any more. Zoos give children tours and teach classes to understand the lives of animals in a better way.

Studying animals is called zoology and people who do research on animals are called zoologists. They take care of sick animals and try to learn more about them and their bodies.




Showing animals

The first zoos kept their animals in separate cages or in areas with fences or walls around them. Most of them, however, did not like living alone. They missed the excitement and thrilling life that they had in nature.


Today, zoos try to create an environment that is more natural to the animals and the visitors who watch them. It looks more like real nature with rocks, plants and trees that animals would normally encounter. Instead of being kept in cages, many zoos have large areas where animals can move around freely and do the things that they would also do in the wild.

Many zoos put animals of the same kind into the same areas. For example, lions, tigers and other large cats may be kept together in some exhibits. Animals that live in the same climate or biome, for example grasslands or deserts, may also be grouped together.

In most cases, visitors can observe the animals but not touch them. Some exhibits use glass plates, others keep visitors and animals apart through rivers, pits or other natural barriers.


How zoos get animals

The first zoos usually bought animals that were captured in the wild. But as wild animals started becoming scarcer many zoos have started to breed as many animals as possible. Sometimes they also borrow them from other zoos.

Breeding is a very difficult process. Zoos first have to study the behavior of animals in order to breed them successfully. After this is done they often lend or sell these animals to other zoos. Every year thousands of animals, like snow leopards, penguins or monkeys are exchanged.


Caring for animals

Keepers are trained workers who care for the everyday needs of animals. They feed them and clean their cages as well as the area that they live in. Food is prepared in special kitchens. More kinds of food are served in zoos than in most restaurants. They need a lot of money to buy meat, grain, fruit and vegetables.

Zoos often announce special feeding times of animals so that visitors can watch. These animals are fed at the same time every day. For many animals food must be carefully prepared. In the wilderness the giant panda, for example, eats mainly bamboo. In zoos, keepers mix bamboo with other food. Animals also get vitamins and other supplements to keep them healthy. Most big zoos have a fulltime staff of veterinarians and other health experts. They examine the animals and treat them in case they become ill. However, even in zoos, animals can get hurt. Small hospitals stand by if operations are necessary.

Professional zookeepers handle the animals as little possible because too much stress may lead to illnesses.


History of Zoos


People have observed and tamed wild animals for thousands of years. One of the earliest zoos was founded in ancient Egypt about 3000 years ago. Emperors in China, India and northern Africa set up huge zoos to show how rich they were. Rulers and rich people in ancient Rome and Greece kept private zoos.

In Europe zoos became popular during the Age of Exploration when explorers and navigators returned from the New World with animals that Europeans had never seen before. Bears, lions or tigers were put in menageries. Later these collections were replaced with bigger places where animals received more care.

The oldest zoo that is still open today is Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna. It dates back to 1752. Other large zoos are in Madrid, Paris and Berlin.



How zoos operate

Many large zoos are owned and operated by local governments. Some are owned by private investors or by non-profit organizations. In addition to getting some money by the state, they also charge admission for people to get in. Money also comes from gift shops, donations and grants.

A zoo must have a large staff too operate properly. The director is the head of the zoo and the curator is the manager and supervises the workers. Keepers take care of animals and vets give them medical care. Scientists study the animals’ behavior and do research work.

In addition , there are many people who do not have direct contact with animals. Employees work in offices, as security personnel and tour guides.


Related Topics


Downloadable PDF Text- and Worksheets



  • admission = you have to pay in order to get into a place like a stadium or a zoo
  • adult = a grown-up person
  • Age of Exploration = time when Columbus and other explorers set out to discover the New World and other continents – 15th and 16th centuries
  • ancient = old
  • announce = to say officially
  • apart = separate; not together
  • area = place
  • bamboo = a tall tropical plant, the stems of which are hollow
  • barrier = something that keeps people away from other things
  • behavior = the way you act
  • biome = an area that has a certain climate and where certain animals and plants live ; ecosystem
  • breed = to bring animals together so that they can have babies
  • cage = a structure made of wires or steel in which animals are kept
  • capture = to catch
  • create = make
  • curator = someone who is in charge of a museum or a zoo
  • date back = go back to a certain year
  • donation = money that you give a person or organization in order to help them
  • emperor = the king of a group of countries
  • employee = a person who works for someone else
  • encounter = meet, come across
  • environment = the world around us
  • excitement =the feeling of being excited about something
  • exhibit = here: cage where animals are kept
  • extinct = die out
  • feed – fed = to give an animal something to eat
  • fence = a structure made of wood or metal that is around a piece of land
  • found-founded = to start something
  • fulltime = for all the hours of a week
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • grain =the seeds of a crop like corn or wheat, which are used to make food
  • grant = money that you get from someone to use for something special
  • grassland = large area covered with wild grass
  • group together = put together
  • handle = treat
  • however = but
  • huge = very big
  • in addition =also
  • in case =if
  • keeper = someone who looks after animals
  • local =here: city or state
  • mammal = a kind of animal that drinks milk from its mother when it is young
  • medical care = to look after an animal and see to it that it does not get ill
  • menagerie = a group of wild animals kept privately or for the public to see
  • miss =lose, not have
  • navigator = explorer who sailed on a ship and discovered new lands
  • needs = what you need in order to live and survive
  • non-profit organization = organization that does not make money
  • path = way, route
  • pit = a big hole in the ground where animals are kept sometimes
  • process = procedure, job
  • receive = get
  • replace =put back
  • reptile = an animal whose body temperature changes according to the temperature around it ; it usually lays eggs to have babies
  • research = to do work in order to find out more about something
  • ruler = the person who is the head of a country
  • scarce = rare, not enough of something
  • security personnel = people who see that nothing dangerous happens
  • selection = choice, variety
  • separate = different
  • sick = ill
  • staff = the people who work in a company or in a place
  • stand by = to be ready for
  • supervise = oversee, control
  • supplement = something that you add to make better
  • survive = to stay alive and continue to exist
  • tame = to train a wild animal not to attack you
  • thrilling = exciting, gripping
  • touch =to put your hand or finger on someone or something
  • vet - veterinarian = a person who is trained to give medical help to an animal
  • wildlife = animals and plants that grow in nature