Zoo's... good, bad, love them, or hate them, people seem to have strong opinions about zoos.
The benefits of accredited zoos are many. They introduce people to a concept of our natural world and try to teach us what it will take to save our planet.
Most zoos today are nothing like the zoos of old. Zoo's that are accredited have the animals welfare in mind. A good example of this is when the North Carolina Zoo needed to get the sealions in water, while their exhibit was being repaired, they gave them the polar bear exhibit. Even though the bears are the most popular animal, they took them off exhibit to give it to the sealions!
There are many programs in zoos that are re-introducing species who's population have either become dangerously threatened or extinct in their native land.
Several Zoos are working closely to protect species. The North Carolina Zoo is working with Cameroon, helping to protect and increase the elephant population. The NC Zoo, along with several other zoos, rescued their polar bears. These bears were confiscated from a traveling circus in Puerto Rico. The circus was from Mexico City. They were kept in very small cages except when they were forced to perform, often times in 100+ degree heat. They rarely had access to water, either to drink or for swimming.
Most reputable zoos only acquire endangered or threatened species to exhibit from other zoos. They are working on a sustainable population of these animals which will keep them from being taken from the wild.
Knowing that, it still doesn't take away the fact that zoo animals are in captivity and are limited. But a captivity that is improving all the time. Exhibits are now being built to suit the animals first and then the visitor. They have a great healthcare plan, and meals they don't have to hunt.
I like to view them as Ambassadors of their species.
I know if it weren't for zoos, I would probably never have become involved financially nor given my time to help support and save our planet! Over 150,000 children come to the NC Zoo each year. If each child takes away just one lesson, maybe our future and our planet will be better.
(I am transferring this from my Flickr profile page and setting up a link)