The bank holiday is here, and people go to the zoo. My what’son guide has a selection of alternatives, and one is Wildlife Photographer of the Year. It is my favourite exhibition, and it is showing at my favourite museum, the Natural History. It shows beautiful animals in their natural habitat. Unlike in the zoo which is past its sell by date. We should stop supporting them. They have done some good work. Recently, zoo staff were caring for Menai, a rare Olive Ridley turtle, found washed up on Anglesey beach. On the other hand, staff shot Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, when a child fell into his cage. And sadly, zoos keep majestic birds of prey caged and tethered. We don’t question it because zoos are conservationists but that’s a cruel con trick.
The Conservation Con
Zoos justify their existence as conservation institutions. But not for young Marius the 18-month-old giraffe. He was shot, butchered and fed to lions at Copenhagen Zoo. Marius made the headlines because he was cut up in front of children. However, Zoo’s annually cull around 5000, healthy animals. They just don’t make the headlines.
Moreover, on closer inspection zoos don’t behave in a conservationist manner. They do not provide fully funded conservation programmes. And in Britain, it only accounts for 3% of expenditure.
Nor are breeding programmes proof of conservation. It’s just a misconception. Let’s take lions. Nicolas Gould [editorial] says most lions are `Generic’ animals of hybrid or unknown sub specific status, and therefore of little or no value in conservation terms’. In addition to which 90% of the animals in a zoo are not endangered species.
And where a zoo keeps endangered species the outlook is bleak. The giant panda breeding programme has seen an estimated four hundred pandas born. But only eight survive including the five reintroduced into the wild. And nothing has saved the northern white rhino. Sudan is the last male of his species on earth.
Animals living in a zoo suffer zoochosis. Their pacing, head shaking and self-harming is captivity driving them crazy (video below). Seeing it makes me sad. So, I no longer visit zoos. Let’s be honest. A zoo cannot provide the space an animal has in the wild. Polar bears in a zoo have 1m times less space. In the wild bears explore for 18 hours, and elephants walk 30 miles a day. Perhaps if zoos treated animals well it would be bearable. But they don’t.
Zoos keep elephants in small concrete compounds. Frequently they suffer painful arthritis and foot conditions. In captivity, they live half the lifespan of those in the wild. Elephants die early because of stress and obesity because they cannot roam. Birds have their wings clipped so cannot fly. Sea world drug their orca’s and dolphins and often aquatic animals go without adequate water. A zoo will breed babies to increase visits and income but they are disregarded with age. Zoo’s sell to circuses and even train animals to perform tricks. Animal petting farms are not exempt. The Times reports them leaving sick animals and dead carcasses to rot.
The Zoo Mis Educates
Alexander the Great, said the purpose of a zoo was to educate. But they don’t. Research shows there were no signs with basic information on 41% of the animals displayed.
Zoos do however miseducate. Zoo breeding programmes give a false impression about the ability to save a species and keep it safe. Zoos spend millions on failing projects. Meanwhile, the animals natural habitat is irrevocably destroyed. So they cannot be reintrodcued into the wild. The money would be better spent preserving natural habitats and protection.
The primary function of zoos is to make money, not save animals. Saying that they are conservationists is the PR so we buy into the product. It is a cruel con trick. It allows them to keep cages of dangerous animals when it is not necesarry. People can travel. So, we don’t need to see turtles in tiny pools when they have the sea. Or birds of prey in cages when they have the trees and sky.
Please choose not to visit the zoo, safari or marine parks.
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