Millionaire conservationist, Damian Aspinall, insists that parents should stop taking their children to see wild animals held captive in zoos. The zoo heir hopes that in the next 25 years, zoos, including his own, will be phased out. While many claim that zoos are important for the conservation of endangered species, Aspinall pointed out that only five per cent of mammals in European zoos are endangered animals.

Aspinall claims that zoos exaggerate the conservation efforts and try to hide the suffering of the animals. According to the conservationist, zoos also enable the hybridisation of species instead of the conservation of endangered species. Zoos keep animals that visitors find attractive instead of focusing on helping endangered species bounce back.

When parents take their children to see animals in the zoos, they normalise animal captivity. By witnessing the animals inside cages, children grow up to believe that wild animals can be taken from their natural habitats for human entertainment. Aspinall also hinted that some zoos have a dark breed and cull cycle where they breed animals to produce babies and then kill off the older animals. This way, the zoos attract more visitors who want to see the adorable baby animals.

Polar bear in zoo
Millionaire zoo boss encourages parents to not take children to zoos to see animals held in captivity. SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images

Refuting the claims that zoos are important for conservation, Aspinall pointed out the low number of endangered animals that are kept in European zoos. Breeding programmes by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), like the elephant breeding programme, was slammed by the millionaire.

Aspinall pointed out that there are more than 400,000 elephants in the wild. 20,000 elephants are in large fenced in reserves in Africa. EAZA spends more than £15m annually on elephants and rhinos in the zoos. Instead, the money would be better utilised to prevent poaching in Africa allowing the elephant numbers to increase in their natural habitat.

Speaking to The Times, Aspinall admitted his own hypocrisy. He allows visitors to the zoo that he inherited to make money which he uses for his conservation projects. Conservation projects at the Howletts Wild Animal Park have returned black rhinos and Western lowland gorillas to Africa.

Another conservation project has seen the return of clouded leopards to Cambodia. Aspinall hopes that in the coming 20-30 years, places like London Zoo and Howletts Wild Animal Park will be phased out. He hopes to only run conservation centers once zoos are shut down