Difference Between Zoo and Sanctuary

Animals and birds are becoming extinct by the day. Poaching is one of the many causes of this. As a result, they may require protection from such activities. Zoos and sanctuaries provide food and shelter for the animals. Although they are comparable in the sense that they both host species, there are some significant variances.

Zoo vs Sanctuary

The main difference between a zoo and a sanctuary is that zoos create artificial habitats to keep animals and sanctuaries keep birds and animals in their natural habitat. The purpose of a zoo is to use animals and birds as public exhibitions and the purpose of a sanctuary is to protect injured and endangered animals.

Zoo vs Sanctuary

A zoo is an artificially created habitat where animals and birds cannot roam freely because they are kept in cages. A zoo exhibits not just one type but all species of animals and birds. The purpose of a zoo is to use animals and birds for the public showcases. A zoo usually covers a smaller area as compared to a sanctuary.

A sanctuary is a natural habitat where animals and birds are not kept in captivity. They are free to roam around. Animals and birds are kept in a sanctuary for their own protection. Usually, such species are injured or endangered. A sanctuary protects a specific species available locally. Sanctuaries cover a much larger area than zoos.

Comparison Table Between Zoo and Sanctuary

Parameters of ComparisonZooSanctuary
Type of HabitatArtificially created habitatNatural Habitat
CaptivityAnimals and birds are kept in cagesAnimals and birds are not kept in captivity
Types of Animals/BirdsAll species of animals and birds are exhibitedThe species available locally are kept in a sanctuary
PurposeAnimals and birds are kept for public exhibitionAnimals and birds are kept for their protection
AreaZoos cover a smaller areaSanctuaries cover a much larger area

What is Zoo?

A zoo (short for a zoological garden; often known as a wildlife park) is a venue where animals are housed in cages, cared for, presented to the public, and in some cases breeding for conservation. Zoos house a diverse range of animals indigenous to all regions of the globe.

People have been keeping wild animals for thousands of years, but their herds have not always mirrored modern zoos. The first zoos were built as private collections by the affluent to demonstrate their wealth. Such individual collections were referred to as menageries.

During the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, the model of the modern, public zoo became popular. People began to wish to study animals for scientific purposes in this period. Scientists were interested in studying animal behavior and anatomy. To do this, scientists and zookeepers had to maintain animals in environments that were similar to or identical to the animals’ native habitats.

Although zoos have prioritized conservation and compassionate animal treatment in recent decades, some detractors argue that keeping animals in cages is inhumane. The inherent behavior and instincts of wild animals are lost in confinement, according to critics. Zoo supporters argue that zoos serve a vital role in the conservation of endangered animals.

What is Sanctuary?

A sanctuary is a place where animals may dwell and be safeguarded for the remainder of their lives. Furthermore, sanctuaries serve as a testing ground for transforming human-animal relationships. Wildlife sanctuaries and exotic animal sanctuaries are two of the four categories of animal sanctuaries that represent the species-belonging of the residents.

Unlike animal shelters, sanctuaries do not try to place animals with persons or groups, preferring to retain each animal until it dies naturally (either from disease or from other animals in the sanctuary). They can, however, assist with rehoming.

In some cases, a facility may serve as both a sanctuary and a shelter; for example, some animals may be temporarily sheltered until they can find a suitable home, while others may be permanent residents.

The goal of sanctuaries is to provide safe havens for animals by giving the best possible care. Animals are never bought, sold, or traded, and they are never used in studies on humans. In addition, no animal parts or secretions are traded, such as eggs, wool, or milk. In a secure environment, the resident animals are able to behave as naturally as possible.

Main Differences Between Zoo and Sanctuary

  1. A zoo is an artificially created habitat and a sanctuary is a natural habitat that’s usually meant for protection of the animals.
  2. The animals and birds are kept in captivity in a zoo but in a sanctuary, they are not kept in captivity.
  3. All species of animals and birds are available in a zoo but in a sanctuary, only locally available species are found.
  4. In a zoo, animals and birds are kept for exhibitions whereas in a sanctuary, the animals and birds are kept for their protection.
  5. A zoo covers a smaller area compared to a sanctuary.


Animal rights activists are opposed to zoos but typically favor sanctuaries. They are opposed to zoos because imprisoning animals for human enjoyment infringes their freedoms and rights. Sanctuaries care for creatures who cannot thrive in the wild and can only survive in captivity.

A zoo is a location where wildlife and birds are kept in intentionally produced habitats in captivity. Sanctuary, on either hand, might be defined as the natural home of wild animals and birds.

The public is free to visit zoos and witness animals and birds in captivity. People, however, cannot create their own sanctuary and must follow particular protocols. The animals at a zoo are not allowed to wander as they like. However, at a sanctuary, they are free to wander because it is their natural environment and there are no other animals to bother them.

One of the numerous distinctions between zoos and sanctuaries is how their animals are obtained. A zoo may acquire, sell, breed, or trade animals, or it may catch wild animals. Animals are not bred, bought, sold, or traded at a sanctuary. A sanctuary, like a zoo, does not catch animals from the wild, but instead takes in creatures who can no longer thrive in the wild. Wounded wildlife or abandoned exotic pets may fall under this category.


  1. http://www.blog44.ca/emadsen/files/2015/09/A-List-of-Arguments-for-and-Against-Zoos-1469ib9.pdf
  2. https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/concern/honors_theses/v979v836s
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