Monday, December 6, 2010

☆ What's Going On: Zoos; Not for the Animal Lover ☆

I know, omg, I am soooo not fun! Everything is "bad" :p Well it's not, but some things are. Zoos are one of those things. I care about animals so I am going to get your brains thinking because there are plenty of things that we do in our lives that we don't really think about. 

I'm not innocent, I've been to zoos without thinking. I'm here to share information with you, to get you thinking and questioning so you can make choices with animal welfare in mind. If you love animals then you will be open to listening and thinking. 

Most of us go to the zoo because we do love animals and we want to see those animals. However, most of us don't think about the fact that zoos aren't all they are cracked up to be. 

We think of Zoos as these opportunistic places where children and adults can explore and learn about wild animals. The reality is, however, that zoos hardly teach you anything about how animals actually live and behave in the wild. I would even go so far as to say it teaches us falsely. There is nothing "natural" or "real" about viewing animals behind bars. Their behaviours are anything but natural, happy, or healthy.

Shall I elaborate?

The small enclosures that zoo animals call "home" will never match up to life in the wild. Zoos simply cannot provide the amount of space animals need to live their lives in a natural manner, especially for those species that roam huge distances in their natural habitats. Tigers and lions have around 18,000 times less space in zoos than they would in the wild and Polar bears have one million times less space. Aquatic animals do not have enough water. Birds are prevented from flying away by having their wings clipped and being in aviaries. 
These animals spend their entire lives in these small inadequate spaces making their lives a monotonous bore.

Unhappy Animals:
That persistent roaming you watch animals do about their cages, that over-sleeping, that hiding, that motionless sitting, all those repetitive movements are not natural, they are signs of stress, depression, boredom, and psychoses. Some zoos actually give their animals anti-depressants and tranquilizers to control such behaviour problems. 
What causes these behaviours? 
Some zoos have mixed exhibits in which some species of animals will distress another species. Then there are many social animals that are kept alone and suffer boredom when they should be kept in groups where they can interact and live a bit more "naturally." 
But the bottom line is this... In nature, animals consume their energy by running, walking, jumping, climbing, hunting, hiding, playing, cleaning, and so on. They do not get to experience anything that is natural to them in zoo life. They have a complete lack of mental stimulation, physical exercise, and a complete lack of privacy. Animals do not get used to life in captivity either, not even those born in captivity generations down the line. Animals never lose their natural instincts. 

Poor Living Conditions:
On top of their habitat and depression, many zoo animals face disease and sickness as a result of this new unnatural habitat. Some zoos don't even have trained vets, so the staff allow their sick animals to die. 
Other zoos have health and safety problems such as spikes on railings or hidden ditches where the animals can get hurt. 
Many zoo animals are not fed properly and some zoos still allow people to feed their animals with all kinds of unsuitable food. 
Zoo animals hardly ever return to the wild because the reintroduction process never works, the animal transport process fails, and the animals are exposed to disease and chemicals because of the confinement.
Many visitors also do not respect the animals and complain if their favourite animal is resting or can't be seen. There are zoos where the keepers will drag out a resting animal to show the public for their satisfaction. 

Transport is another issue. Many animals are moved around a lot from one zoo to another, either because they are bought, they are sick where they are, or for breeding. This transportation process is far from stressless and painless and is simply not good for the animals. Transportation standards are low and the animals often face weather extremes. 

Many animals are taken from the wild, captured, and transported miles and miles away to your local zoo. Some of these animals are injured, orphaned, their habitats are destroyed, or do not have enough food. And yet, almost all of these are human-caused. 

Some Zoos will claim to breed animals as part of Endangered Species protection programs or Conservation for eventual release to the wild. But these animals will almost Never return to the wild. 
There are thousands of endangered species, but zoos have only been able to return about 16 species to the wild with varying levels of success. These Reintroduction programs rarely work because captive animals no longer possess the skills for survival. The zoo animals are essentially, set up for failure. They would need to live in habitats that actually resemble their natural ones, especially for climate and geological regions. They would also need to be raised with minimal human contact, clearly not the case at zoos, and they would need to be in populations large enough to provide a natural social balance. 

Sanctuaries exist and these endangered animals are often not sent to such Sanctuaries when they should be. Why? Because we live in a world where money is everything, and Zoos Make Money.

Zoos spend tons of money on their breeding programs when it is at least 50 times more expensive to maintain these animals in zoos than to protect the equivalent number of animals in the wild. Care about conservation? Put your money to better use. Using the money for conservation programs in the wild, such as by creating more protected reserves, will not only allow the animals to live in their natural habitat, but it also helps balance whole eco-systems.

Breeding Programs:
Breeding programmes are said to be in place for conservation, even though breeding animals in captivity and artificially inseminating them is hardly the best way to help conservation as mentioned above. These programs are really there primarily to ensure a captive population, not for reintroduction. Why? Well, behind the appearance of saving endangered species, the blatant fact remains; zoos are there to make money. They need to keep those cages full and just look at how many visitors Baby animals attract! Baby animals become powerful marketing tools.  

It is not uncommon for zoo babies to be rejected by their mothers. In some situations zoo keepers will step in and take care of the rejected babies, in other situations they choose to simply leave the babies to die.
Zoo keepers also choose to remove babies sometimes, even when their mothers have not rejected them. They do this to make the babies "better exhibit animals" meaning they are safer to work with and more at ease around people.

Surplus Animals:
Surplus animals are the unwanted animals left over when there is no more space. This is usually when zoos have bred yet another cute little baby to attract visitors. Sometimes these surplus animals are even the babies themselves when they've stopped being cute at the end of the season. 
Zoos have a systematic "overproduction" of animals. These surplus animals are either killed are are either fed to their fellow zoo habitants, or sold to other zoos or dealers.
Selling animals is a profitable way for zoos to dispose of them. Dealers will sell them to hunting ranches, pet shops, circuses, the exotic meat industry and research facilities. Surplus animals are also found for sale on the internet.

Every zoo is different and the information above may not apply to all zoos. I'm not saying all zoos are necessarily bad. Are most of them? Probably. But I'm not saying never go to a zoo, that will be your choice to make at your own discretion. Maybe you will choose to find out which Zoos actually care and are actually part of animal conservation, not just zoo breeders. 
Animal Sanctuaries are another good option. You may have to travel farther but it is definitely worth it. 

Think about what you are supporting when you visit zoos that mistreat their animals. If you truly love and care about animals, you will think about where you are going to see those favorite species before you jump to your nearest zoo.  

Peace & Love,

Want more?
"Wild Animals in Captivity" by Rob Laidlaw

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  1. This blog was like a devil in disguise for me. It made me really think about the zoo here and what actions are taken. So much that when I went there I decided to do as much looking into things as I could. Have always hated the way that some of the animals look so sad. On my recent visit I found out that the zoo here actually does more then some which is good. But I still disagree with some of the things they have there. Thanks for the eye opener :)

  2. Yeah, its pretty sad. I remember going to the Edmonton Zoo a couple years ago, we took our niece so it was sweet to have her around checking out all the animals, but I remember feeling a bit "not right" I guess. I cant even really explain it. I looooove animals, so it was lovely to see them but then when you really look at them and see how poorly treated and sad they are its definitely not so fun :P
    I remember also wondering how on earth they could possibly have a zoo in Edmonton and have all those animals when the temperature there hits -30 to -40 much of the winter. :(


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