The Rothfels reading ended with the author claiming that people go to the zoo "not because they fail to see the limitations of the place but because they are searching for the possibilities." This led me to search around to find out just what possibilities zoogoers are looking for and what they actually find.
One study showed that many adults visit zoos alone rather than in groups with family and friends. Many talk un-self-consciously with the animals, maybe to be alone with their thoughts or because they can’t find a companion for the trip. For some it may be a way to socialize, identify, empathize with other beings, without the strain of always interacting with people. So I suppose that it can be viewed as an escapism of sorts in this sense.
Other reasons that I found were the obvious and often claimed ones like,the zoo is educational, or it exposes people to animals that they would not get a chance to see otherwise. There are studies that say otherwise about how educational zoos are and also with the internet capabilities in this day and age, one can easily stream videos and encounter animals virtually. Are zoos obsolete and if not, then are they worth keeping around? I remember enjoying the zoo when I was a kid, admiring all of the exotic animals, but I was naive back then and now have a better understanding of what the existence of zoos mean for animals.