I'm with you. Something irks me about "zoo shots". Especially when people refer to them as "wildlife photography". Seriously? That's like waiting in line at a book signing, then telling people that you know the author. Like buying a lapdance then saying you hit second base with a model. I suppose it's an OK way to practice, but that "wildlife" has been put on display, you didn't track it, you didn't "earn it". It's just a gear test.
Going to the zoo is probably the only way many people will ever be able to afford to photograph oh... an African elephant. Ponying up 5 figures to fly to Africa doesn't make a picture of one more legitimate. It's just a wallet test.
Often times wildlife photography is luck. Right place, right time. By happenstance, I was able to take this photo of a mother grizzly rear up to check out a loud sound. My plans that day were go from lake yellowstone to lamar valley. The road through dunraven peak was closed due to ice, so I had to go counterclockwise around the park rather than take the direct route north. Had the road been open, I'd never have seen this. I didn't earn the opportunity.