“The wildlife of today is not ours to dispose of as we please. We have it in trust. We must account for it to those who come after.” – A simple but effective statement from King George VI which conveys perfectly the idea that our wildlife is not ours to control. If everyone were to read and absorb the meaning of this then maybe we would realise that the way zoos are keeping and looking after animals is wrong. If zoos were to release all animals then there would be no more animals unnecessarily killed, held captive with not enough space or driven insane.
I think zoos should be banned because thousands of healthy animals are killed each year in European zoos. According to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, “As many as 5,000 creatures are put down annually to manage populations”. The chairman, Simon Tonge, then goes on to say that, “It is necessary to euthanise animals and that zoos cannot afford to be “sentimental” about the issue”. This shows how little zoos care about the animals and that to the zoo owners, the animals do nothing more than serve a purpose that is to entertain the public, and when they cannot do that any longer, they are killed rather than being set free into the wild. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Captive Animal Protection Society argue that the number of animals killed each year by European zoos is actually around 10,000 and that the figure given by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria are inaccurate. It is utterly appalling that they are allowed to just kill the animals when they become less useful and less interesting to them instead of releasing them back into the wild where they belong.
Another way in which zoos are inhumane is because the animals do not get enough space to roam and be free like they would if they were in their natural habitat. In the wild, most animals would travel many miles a day with many of their kind and fulfilling a happy, free life. They would roam for days on end, hunting and caring for themselves and their family. For animals kept in captivity, this is only something they can dream of being able to do. They are forced to live in enclosures that are extremely undersized and are soul destroying as there is nothing to do. The animals often start to lose their mind due to the lack of space and stimulation. This is a condition called “Zoochosis” which is where animals start to rock, circle endlessly or even self-harm. In Laurel Bratman’s book, “Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs. . .Help Us Understand Ourselves.” he shares information on a polar bear from the mid-90s that was kept in Central Park Zoo. The polar bear was badly affected by Zoochosis as he started swimming figure eights in his pool for 12 hours a day, non-stop. This is very distressing to hear. The polar bear was showing clear signs of zoochosis but the zoo owners didn’t seem to do anything about the issue because the bear was attracting many people to the zoo. Later in an interview, Bratman stated that “Zoos as institutions are deeply problematic,” and that “it’s impossible to replicate even a slim fraction of the kind of life polar bears have in the wild.” It was later calculated that the polar bear was forced to live in an enclosure that was 0.00009% the size of the range he would have been living in had he been in his natural habitat.
Did you know that in zoos, the life expectancy of many animals is far less than animals that live in the wild? For example, elephants that live in the wild can live happily up to the age of 60 or 70 years old whereas elephants that are kept in captivity often die before they reach 40 years old. The reason for such a drastic difference in life expectancy is due to lack of basic requirements such as socialising with other animals, too much stress and very confined living space. Information found in an article from CAPA tells us that “African elephants in the wild live more than three times as long as those kept in zoos” This goes to show that zoos cannot replicate the habitat and conditions that animals are used because they starve the animals of contact with others of their kind and do not allow them to socialise with their kind.
In this day in age, Is there a need for zoos anymore? Thanks to the revolutionary technology we have, we can view many fascinating television programmes and documentaries that give us an excellent insight into the lives of animals in their natural habitat. People are also able to adventure to different parts of the world and can go on attractions like safaris to see for themselves what animals are really like. These are opportunities that we haven’t been able to take advantage of in the past, but we can indulge in now. According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, Chester zoo’s visitor figures reached a record of 1,900,000 in 2016. Although this is a massive number of visitors, it is very small compared to 12.26 million views that Sir David Attenborough got for his debut episode of his new show, “Planet Earth II”. This show seems to be more popular and cheaper to watch than paying for a visit to a zoo, so is there any point anymore in taking a trip to the zoo to watch some depressed animals. Besides, the show is as close an experience that you are going to get to being right there with the animals in the wild, where they belong.
Many people believe that zoos are being socially responsible in that they are protecting endangered species by keeping them in zoos and creating breeding programmes for them which could help prevent endangered species of animals from becoming extinct. This is a reasonable plan because it helps to keep certain species alive for many generations to come and it simulates part of what the animals would do in the wild which is reproduce. The only problem with keeping these “endangered” animals in captivity is that many of these animals aren’t even endangered and do not need breeding programmes to keep the species alive! According to CAPS, “not only were almost half of the current EEP breeding programmes for species that are not classed as endangered in the wild, almost 25% of the programme were for animals that are not threatened in the wild at all.” This means that a lot of these animals are held captive only for entertainment purposes and to help the zoos receive more money.
In my opinion, zoos should be banned, and all animals should be allowed to roam free in the wild where they are supposed to live, socialise and reproduce. Zoos can never replicate the relationships and living conditions that animals would experience in the wild and I find their attempt of doing so shameful and I think it shouldn’t be allowed. It would be great to one day see all animals from zoos being rehabilitated and eventually released back into the wild where they belong. Hopefully with the help of resources such as nature documentaries and television programmes, we can bring an end to the keeping of animals in captivity. If we really love animals, we should close all zoos now.