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.
You seem to be ignoring my distinction between "zoo pics" and zoo pics that are being referred to as "wildlife photography". I have no issue with people taking pics at the zoo. Shoot away. It's great practice
In fact, I don't disagree with anything you just said, aside from "Ponying up 5 figures to fly to Africa doesn't make a picture of one more legitimate." Sorry, but if the photographer is referring to their pic of an elephant as "wildlife photography", as I stated in my post, yes, it does.
Also I don't agree at all, that you "didn't earn" that bear shot. GREAT shot, by the way. Sure you earned it. And that IS "wildlife" photography. I simply think people should be honest with others (and themselves), and acknowledge that what they're doing is very different from what you did, or what true wildlife photographers do.