Recent sad and bad news about events in and around zoos raises the thorny question about the efficacy of these long- established institutions.
According to legend, the first zoo-like establishment goes back almost 4,000 years and the longest-running zoo, in Austria, 400 years. Zoos, like botanical gardens, were originally a source of entertainment (private and public) or a way to show off wealth and power.
However in the last century, zoos have more and more needed to show they offer protection and conservation but There is always a "but" when it comes to humans trying to put right things other humans have done wrong.
It makes you wonder just why, in this day and age, we should need to "protect" animals by caging them.
Like most people, I have paid to visit some truly horrendous examples, as well as those that clearly have animal welfare very much at heart.
The problem will always be to make sure which type survives.
Enter the "whistle-blower," although in my day it was either "being a concerned citizen" or, if you were the butt of the concern, being a nosy old do- gooder.
Whatever wording you use, it is clear that everyone needs to do their part. Whether it is educating the world to protect animals, or keeping a watch on those apparently protecting animals by putting them in cages.
My choice is to continue to check out any place that contains animals, and if it meets my high standards, I will continue to support it.
If however, I see anything that adds to an animal's misery, I, like the rest of the caring world, will make my feelings known in as many non-aggressive ways that I can.
After all, where else can a mother teach her child not to be scared of snakes, giant cockroaches and poisonous spiders, if not in some local "petting" zoo?
The type that sprang up in the middle of the last century teaches about the less cuddly denizens of our world by encouraging visitors to get up close and personal to what is normally something that makes us want to run screaming into the night.
Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four- legged waifs and strays.