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Zoo Etiquette 101

Updated on July 1, 2013
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing for HubPages for over 7 years. She covers a wide variety of topics—anything from hamsters to office work.

Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, DC
Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, DC | Source

Don't Go Too Wild at the Zoo

I realize visiting the zoo is not for everyone. Some people take offense to adorable little (and large) animals being kept in cages at the zoo. Other people prefer to stay away from the unique odor that is only at the zoo. There are still plenty of people that enjoy visiting the zoo even if some folks don't like it. Unfortunately, not everyone that enjoys going to the zoo makes the experience enjoyable for others. There are some definite rules of etiquette zoo visitors are not following while at the zoo.

As usual, I am more than happy to share my rules of etiquette for visiting a zoo. These rules can also easily work for your trip to the aquarium as well. Basically, if you are going to a place to visit critters in cages, tanks, or any other enclosed area, you should read these rules of etiquette and make sure you are not going to be rude while there.

1. You are not the only one that wants to look at the animals.

I've noticed in any zoo or aquarium situations, there are always certain people that want to squeeze their way to the front of the display and then not move for a significant amount of time. This is cool if the zoo is not too packed, but if you can clearly see you are standing in the way of others, take a look at the animals, maybe take a picture, and then move on.

I know, I know, you love zebras and you want to stare at them for a while. Staring is rude and you are creeping out the zebras! Just keep it moving and help all the other zoo visitors while you are at it.

2. Please don't feed the animals.

I don't know what on earth some zoo patrons are thinking, but feeding the animals is NOT ALLOWED unless otherwise stated. Sometimes you are allowed to feed the animals in a petting zoo situation, but in most zoos, the animals are on a strict diet.

You should never ever under any circumstance think it is a good idea to feed Cheetos to the lion. First of all, "people food" is not intended for most animals. Second, that lion might eat your arm off. You are so wrong for so many reasons when you try to feed the animals, so please stop doing it.


3. Do not torment the animals at all.

Animals are really cute and some even enjoy getting attention from zoo visitors. This is all pretty fun, but did you know many animals don't understand humor? Yes, it is true! Lots of little creatures just don't have a sense of humor.

Now that we've established many animals won't appreciate your attempt at humor, let's reflect on some things you shouldn't do while at the zoo:

  • Bang on the glass if the animal is in a tank.
  • Yell mean things at the apes.
  • Howl at the wolves.
  • Pretend you are about to throw your child into a cage.
  • Throw items at the animals.
  • Press your face against the fence or screen.

4. Don't try to climb in the cage.

Yes, I know, you've been trying to get the perfect photo of a llama since visiting the zoo. The llama just won't get close to you no matter what you do. You know what you should do? Next time, take a camera that can zoom in for the photo. You know what you shouldn't do? Don't try climbing in the cage with the llama.

The animals at the zoo are pretty used to being stared at all day, but that does not mean they are domesticated. They are still wild animals and they can hurt you. Even if you don't get hurt by the zoo animals, you are likely going to scare them and give them nightmares for weeks. Respect the animals and don't do something foolish. At the very least, you will be kicked out of the zoo.


5. Don't take photos if you are asked not to do so.

Some animals scare easily. They really don't like flashes from cameras. Also, if the animal is nocturnal and kept in a dark area, the little guy really doesn't want you to take a photo with a flash camera. If you are asked not to take flash photos, don't take flash photos!

In general, follow the rules and use common sense while at the zoo. If something seems dangerous, it probably is dangerous. If something you are doing seems to be upsetting the animals, it probably is annoying. Remember to read the signs, listen to warnings, and don't freak out the zoo animals! Following the rules of zoo etiquette will keep you and everyone else at the zoo happy.

Copyright ©2012 Jeannieinabottle



Submit a Comment

  • SpeakUpStandOut profile image


    5 years ago from Southern California

    You're right, common sense isn't so common these days.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I am not sure anyone has common sense anymore. I heard about the child being killed by the wild dogs. Seriously, what is wrong with people? Common sense would prevent so many accidents from occuring. Thanks for your comment!

  • SpeakUpStandOut profile image


    5 years ago from Southern California

    These are pretty common sense, I think though, most people know how to act when in public; even if they do not act like it. Consider the woman who put her 2 year old child on the fence of an exhibit so the child could see and the child feel down and was killed. These are things people should know not to do, but they do them anyway, and sometimes the cost is too much to pay; like a tiny life.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    That is the best compliment ever. Thanks so much, Vinaya!

  • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

    Vinaya Ghimire 

    6 years ago from Nepal

    Jeannie, thanks for the tips. Next time I'm in zoo, I will remember you.


  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Hahaha.... I am happy to help. I am sure all the zoo visitors and animals are grateful, too. :-)

  • TToombs08 profile image

    Terrye Toombs 

    6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

    Jeannie, thank you so much for this. Without this, I would have continued to be rude and uncouth at the zoo! :) Voted up and shared.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thanks for the info! I've never been there that early in the morning, but I would love to see fun animal activity. I wish I could just find one other person alert enough in the morning to go with me. Hehe. Thanks for the comment!

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Claudia Mitchell 

    6 years ago

    I'm always amazed at how parents let their kids throw things at the animals! Drives me bonkers. On a side note, a little secret about the National Zoo, go really early in the morning (like 6:30 or 7:00), since there are no gates you can walk around and the animals are crazy active! You just can't get into the different buildings, but it's great to walk around.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    billybuc - I know! What is wrong with people trying to annoy the animals? I mean, I might say, "here giraffe, giraffe, giraffe..." but that is as far as I go. Thanks for checking out my hub!

    Janine Huldie - Thanks so much! Some people linger just too long. I mean, there are about a hundred other animals to look at. I don't know why it takes some people so long.

    Alecia Murphy - Apparently the guy at the zoo wanted to "become on with the tiger." Of course, that still explains nothing! Thanks for the comment!

    ignugent17 - I do hope some people will check out this hub before visiting the zoo. It can be frustrating when no one will let you get close to see the lions or any other animal. Thanks for the votes and the comment!

    fpherj48 - The zoo in DC is free, too. It is a good thing it is free... about 4 exhibits were closed the day we went. I kept reminding myself, "but hey, it is free... it is free... where are the pandas!?! But it's free...." Thanks for the comment and the vote up!

    Sharkye11 - You are so right. I can't swim, but even if I could, I am not diving into a pond with the grizzley bears. I will, however, take some times to film the whole thing. I might even post it on this hub. I am just that generous! Thanks for the comment!

  • Sharkye11 profile image

    Jayme Kinsey 

    6 years ago from Oklahoma

    Great suggestions! The OKC zoo has a bridge over a pool of water that the grizzly bears like to swim in. For some reason, people thing it is a good idea to throw things in the water and hang over the bridge.

    I am an excellent swimmer, and have all my CPR and Red Cross training, but if someone does something dumb and falls into a lake filled with grizzly bears, I am not diving in to save them. I will just live with the guilt, and my limbs, for the rest of my life.

  • fpherj48 profile image


    6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Jeannie...Whatever would any of us do without your helpful tips of all sorts? This one is a prize.....and you are right.....anytime I've been to a zoo, the animals behave better than the people.

    Being the penny pincher I am.....I take my grandchildren, once a year on "Gram Dawg's DIY Zoo Experience"......There are fish galore, turtles and crabbies in our creek. Deer, ducks, heron, squirrels, racoons, birdies, bunnies and chipmunks in the woods behind my house.....horses, cows, sheep, llama and donkeys....chickens, pigs and sheepdogs, barn cats, mice and farms, just a few miles away.

    If that's not enough animals in one day...and FREE, at that, Gram Dawg says, "Too bad,"...........good job as always, Jeannie...UP+++

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Thank you very much Janine. Very helpful information. Parents should read this first before going to the zoo and tell their kids not to scare the animals or even try to climb the cages.

    Voted up and more! :-)

  • Alecia Murphy profile image

    Alecia Murphy 

    6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

    I'm like billybuc, why did that guy just jump in the tiger den? He must not have enjoyed the luxuries of having two working legs. But these tips of course are very timely. Animals are not human but they still deserve some consideration and respect. Great job!

  • Janine Huldie profile image

    Janine Huldie 

    6 years ago from New York, New York

    Jeannie, we recently just took the girls to the zoo and your tips on Zoo etiquette is perfect and spot on. Too many people seem to linger and not let others actually see certain animals and have to totally agree with you on this one. Thanks for writing this one and have of course voted, shared and tweeted too :)

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    All excellent suggestions! The people who bang on the cages....I just want to beat them. I'm still trying to figure out what that guy was doing jumping into the tiger den at the zoo....just a weird story!

    Anyway, great job!


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