Who doesn’t love a trip to the zoo? Zoos are centers of knowledge and understanding about exotic animals from all around the world. From monkeys, anteaters, sloths, duck billed platypuses, to large game cats, and elephants. There are an inexhaustible number of animals that bring wonder and amazement when ever you visit a zoo.
But the zoo also has a dark side to it, a side that is often overlooked by the tens of millions of visitors each year; the inmates. Zoos are concentration camps for animals, they are a form of new age torture for animals that should be free in the wild. We take animals out of their natural environments where they have the entire world as their playground, and we put them in a fictional “re-creation” of their habitat that amounts to nothing more than a fancy jail cell with plants.
It is true that animals in the wild have a low survival rate. They are subject to avoiding natural predators, they face death around every corner, and live a life where survival is the only objective. But who are we to decide that a life in captivity is a better way to live than in the wild? We have no idea if they would rather have to forage for food as free animals rather than be given 3-square a day as prisoners.
And this is on top of making some of the more exotic ones perform and do shows. They say the biggest fear for the majority of human beings is public speaking or performing on stage. And we are not only capturing these animals and locking them up, we then expect them to put on 4 shows a day on top of that, literally for peanuts.
Movies such as Black fish are attempting to document the psychosis that animals go through as a result of being held in captivity. I think the public is slowly becoming more aware of the torture it must be for animals to be forced out of the wild and into a life of performance servitude.
Shows like Earth, Planet Earth, Life, and Blue Planet visual depict exactly how wondrous the world in which we live in is. They show the extent of grandeur of the habitats that these animals naturally reside in. To think that we can “re-create” this in captivity illustrates our pompous, nihilistic view of the impact we have on the world around us.
What are we trying to do with these animals? The reason I love going to the zoo or to a marine park is for the same reason I think all people do. It’s for the amazing collection of animals they have on display that I have never seen before. These animals have evolved over millions of years and developed astonishing attributes and adaptations that inspire awe and wonder with their ability to coexist with their surroundings. They are, for lack of a better description, amazing creatures.
Maybe what I enjoy most is just knowing how wondrous nature can be to produce creatures that are so unique, strange, majestic, beautiful, dangerous, or just plain adorable as the ones that are on display. But do these animals just exist on the planet simply for our amusement? Is their only reason for existence for us to collect them in cages the a child does rocks on a beach? I believe that this is every bit their planet as it is ours.
I know in certain areas the animals are safer in captivity than they are in the wild because their natural habitats are being destroyed with such voracity that they are close to extinction. But that is a whole other issue for a different post. The excuse that we have to “save” them is quite the double edged sword argument, since it is us from us that they need to be saved.
Reunion Island, a French territory near the east coast of Africa, is going to kill 90 sharks in response to a surfer being attacked and killed by one. Actually 5 surfers in the last 5 years have lost their lives as a result of shark attacks. However, all surfers know the danger of surfing when they paddle out into the break, and they accept it. This kind of knee-jerk, visceral response to the tragedy of a person losing their life is horrific. Killing 90 sharks that had nothing to do with the attack on these 5 surfers has about as much logic as arresting the entire Patriots team for the transgressions of their teammate, Aaron Hernandez.
So what’s the solution? Should we just open the cages and let all the animals run free back into the wild? Of course not, they would die as soon as they made it back to their natural environments. They have been conditioned to being in captivity, and some were even born there. They wouldn’t last a day on their own. Since they were born in captivity, they will have to stay in captivity because they have not developed the instincts needed to survive in the wild.
My suggestion is simple, stop capturing them and putting them into captivity. We live in a world that is smaller than it has ever been. We have the opportunity to travel the world with such ease to where ever we want, that we can easily visit where these animals reside in the wild. This will benefit humans and animals alike. It allows people to see the world in which they live, to get out of their comfort zones and the confines of their daily routines. It will boost the economy both home and abroad with the flow of money that will be spent on traveling. And it will allow you to see things that you never imagined you ever would. All while appreciating the delicate balance of life, their habitats, and the world we live in. And it will be better than any zoo you would ever visit.
Is it as convenient as a zoo? No of course not. But it’s not very convenient for the animals that are interned there either!