I would like to say first off that I do not know of a good zoo, aquarium, insectarium, or any animals, birds, fish, or even insects, that are better off for being in one. First off for a zoo to be successful people must come to see the animals and that means building cages that confine and force the animals out into the open where they are often not comfortable and at times they would be resting. Animals in the wild avoid man, hunt, forage and stake out territories; they mate, have their young pass on all that they know and then die. Whether they are hunted and killed by a predator, or die from natural causes, nothing is wasted and they ae recycled. This is nature at its best. This is the way it was meant to be.
I am as guilty as the next person, because I loved going to the zoo and I took my children there and I enjoyed myself and my kids had a great time and I was one of the great ignorant hoard that thought the gorilla that was in the tiny bubble glass cage throwing himself tirelessly into the glass was having fun. I was the ignorant person who believed that a creature that was made to forage across vast areas like an elephant could be happy in an enclosure that took 5 minutes to cross.
How could we have convinced ourselves that a polar bear could be happy swimming in a pool rather than in the ocean where it belonged, eating dead fish fed to it by a handler, instead of hunting and killing its prey like it was intended to do? From the sharks to the penguins we have wronged these water creatures as we have the wild animals in our zoos, that used to roam free in the forests and jungles, wetlands and marshes of the world, before humans entered the forest and changed the balance of nature, with their quest for progress.
What eventually changed my mind was a visit to a zoo a while back where I saw a bear in a cage that was literally losing all of its hair and not eating. The diagnosis on a plaque read,” This bear is 5 years old, she is bored. We are building her a new exhibit, where hopefully she will stop licking of her fur.” This was a new environment friendly zoo, designed with the animals welfare and comfort in mind.
I have been in juvenile detention and jails and I know that there is no such thing as a good prison, some are better than others, but when the lights go out and the door to your cell is locked, you know that you are not free. When everything that you do requires permission and you have no choices you know you are not free. When everything you do is monitored and you can not even go to the bathroom in private, you know you are not free and it is no different for them, the animals, fish and birds we keep locked up for our amusement; they are not happy and they are indeed prisoners.
I think what bothered me the most about the zoo and the bear was that the zoo thought that they had developed a winning strategy and that everything was going good with the exception of the bear and at first glance, they seemed to be right. The zoo even tried to infer that the animals liked the attention, some how were living a more productive, safer life and would probably out live their counter parts in the wild, wanting for nothing. The zoo seemed to be asking given all this, how could being in a zoo be all that bad for the animals? People wake up this is not even close to their natural environment.
Then there is the argument that these animals are now bred in the zoo so they would not survive in the wild and could not possibly know or be feeling the call of the wild, because they have never seen or experienced freedom. I say, was slavery any better when the slaves were bred in the USA instead of captured and brought by force to America to be enslaved? The answer is of course no and it is no more right for the animals either.
In the name of progress we have destroyed most of the wild creatures habitat and made extinct too many species of creature. We have polluted the water in which our water creatures live and have dried out the marshes where water birds and aquatic life breed and nest, all for progress, all for the almighty dollar. We destroy by choice not by accident and then we lie to ourselves that we care. We are now even willing to state that in the very near future that it is a conceivable reality that the only animals that will be left to be seen in this world, on this planet will be those left in zoos, or those caught on film; now how tragic is that? When you think that the majority of Africans have never seen an elephant other than in captivity, or on television you should be getting the idea of how serious this situation is.
We will not be able to ease our consciences anymore by making zoos and biodomes, aquariums and insectariums, because they have no real value except to remind us just how selfish and cruel we have treated nature and everything on this planet, including ourselves. As the Polar Ice Cap continues to melt, and the polar bear enters onto the endangered species list with a host of other animals, I reiterate that there are no good zoos; there are no good aquariums; there are no good biodomes and there are no good insectariums; they are only prisons for nature, some better than others but all prisons just the same.
We have no idea what makes an animal happy, but if we could or would just apply the basic things that we require to make us happy in our every day lives and let them have it, I think that the animals might have a small chance at survival in their natural habitat, or what is left of it. Is it so difficult to understand that everything in life needs to be what it is and was meant to be and that is not a tool to bring gratification to human beings? Is it so hard to understand that every animal species that goes the way of extinction, brings us closer to our own extinction?
If you follow the youtube link you will see some video footage of the animals in their cages and will have a better understanding of the life these animals live every day as long as they are alive. I tied to capture some pretty fast creatures in the first few minutes without great success. Bear with me or fast forward, but do watch to the end and tell me you think that all is good for them.
I think all zoos are prisons for animals, but I do understand the joy and educational benefits they have. As I walked through the Ecomuseum Zoo in Montreal, I witnessed the joy and the love for these animals that the children expressed and was sorry that it came at such a high price to the animals. Is it enough that the children squeal with delight , or is there another lesson to be learned here as well? I will leave it to the individual to decide the right and wrong of it as is usually the case in all I write about. The majestic captive eagles hopping about and trying to take flight, but held firmly by chain, rope and leather, helped make up my mind for me.
- Polar bears on thin ice (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Russia’s Olympic bear kept caged on parked bus (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Zoos Fake Hunts to Satisfy Predators’ Killer Instincts (livescience.com)
- The Safari Park Rawrrrr! (kevinofriel.wordpress.com)