Role of Zoos Debated

Institutions Try to Balance Science and Spectacle

Meerkats at Omaha's Doorly Zoo.

Meerkats inside the popular Desert Dome exhibit at Omaha's Doorly Zoo. Greg Allen, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Greg Allen, NPR News

In zoos across the country, there's a debate going on raising a fundamental question: what exactly are zoos for? Since they were first created, zoos have always sought to balance recreation with education and science.

But in recent years, U.S. zoos have been working to become more entertaining. People who run zoos argue that to take care of the animals, they first need to cater to the people who pay for their upkeep.

NPR's Greg Allen explores the phenomenon by looking at the struggles of the Kansas City Zoo and the success of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.

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