Animal Habitats in the Wild vs. the Zoo

Tree in the Park by collage artist Megan Coyle
Megan Coyle. Tree in the Park.

What is a habitat? A habitat is the environment that an animal lives in. Natural habitats include places in the wild where animals live – like forests, fields, rivers, lakes, and the ocean, just to name a few. Animal habitats at the zoo are much different than they are in the wild. They are called manmade habitats because people make them.

Animals are kept in closed in areas at the zoo. Depending on the type of animal they are, there are different habitats available. For example, there are large fish tanks at the zoo for large Amazonian fish and smaller fish tanks for smaller fish. Smaller animals are kept in tanks or areas closed in with clear glass so visitors can see them. The smaller animals have homes that often include a few plants, dirt, and an area where they eat and drink.

Hippo by collage artist Megan Coyle
Megan Coyle. Hungry Hippo.

Larger animals usually have an outside area with grass, plants, trees, and a water source. They also have an indoor area which is usually paved and has either metal bars or a thick glass that surrounds them.

These homes at the zoo may seem large to us, but compared to living in the open space of a natural habitat like a large forest, they are actually small. Also, instead of searching for their food and water, the animals have food given to them at feeding time.

When you look at Megan Coyle’s animal collages, study the backgrounds. Most of her backgrounds are simple with just a gray or dark brown color. What does that remind you of?

The brown and gray remind us of the pavement in different animal exhibits at the zoo. Other times she’ll use different greens in the background that make it look as though the animals are outside. But did you notice that you can’t really tell where the animals are? Coyle is more interested in the animals than the setting they are in, so she usually makes simple settings for them.

What would an animal collage look like if you placed the animal in a setting you could recognize? Think about the different animals that live at the zoo. Now imagine what their natural habitats look like. Take a look at some collages where the animals are in detailed settings:

(Click on an image below to view a larger image)

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