2016 has not been a great year for animals in captivity. From the killing of Harambe a Western Lowland Gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden after a child climbed into his enclosure in May of this year, to the recent attack of a flamingo named Pinky at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay by an ex-con visiting the park with his family, who then sadly had to be put down because of her injuries, it keeps becoming increasingly apparent that keeping animals in captivity where humans can visit, view, and get close to them, inherently puts the lives and well-being of those animals at risk.
While many who support zoos and other similar institutions (like SeaWorld) who base their entire business on the captivity of wild animals claim that these institutions truly help animals and are used for educational and rehabilitation purposes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to uphold those claims with incidents continually popping up in the news about the euthanization of animals residing in these places.
That truth of the matter too, is that these animals can be harmful to humans. From orca trainers and zoo staff suffering injuries, and at times worse than that, while interacting and being in such close proximity to these wild animals. Animals can escape their closures. And, as we all know, people can find their way into the animal enclosures as well.
There are countless reasons that wild animals do not belong in captivity.
The well-known documentary film, Blackfish touched on many of the mental and physical issues associated with keeping wild animals in captivity, like the psychological trauma orcas suffer from being stuck in unnatural swimming pool sized enclosures and dorsal fin collapse, which is very rare condition for wild orcas who can swim up to 100 miles per day, but a very common ailment to those held in captivity.
Zoos and other similar institutions are unnatural to wild animals. They are essentially prisons for these animals. Animals in captivity are confined to artificial and insufficient living spaces, given no privacy and deprived of the mating and hunting behaviors that come naturally and instinctively to them. The things that are most desirable, and necessary, to them.
Because of captivity, many animals experience a condition called, “zoochosis.” This is a condition where the wild animal engages in repetitive obsessive-like behavior, behavior they do not exhibit when they are out free in their natural habitat.
While some argue that keeping these animals in captivity allows us to study them more fully, and that it gives the general public a better education on them because they can actually view the animal in person, do you really believe that ripping a wild animal from their natural environment and placing them in an artificial construct much smaller, and unnatural to their own is going to show you the best representation of that animal and their natural behaviors? Most people too when they visit the zoo spend mere minutes looking into each enclosure, never really learning anything sincere or authentic about that animal.
It is time we stop making excuses for the way that we treat animals. Instead, do what’s right. Treat other living beings the same way you’d wish to be treated, if it were you in their position.