Away From Home, Animals Held in Captivity

Eve Abboud, Contributor

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“A zoo is a place where animals live in captivity and are put on display for people to view.” (Definition from National Geographic.) Sounds pretty cruel, right? For starters, zoos were first made for scientific purposes, so that people could more closely observe them, which isn’t that bad. However, people have used zoos as entertainment, and in some cases, abuse animals to do tricks for circuses or illegally take animals from the wild.

“If I had my way, there wouldn’t be a single lion or tiger in captivity anywhere in the world. They never take to it. They’re never happy. They never settle down… you can see it in their eyes,” said Hugh Lofting, the author who created the famous character Dr. Doolittle.  He’s right, in more ways than one. Dolphins, in some cases, actually kill themselves because they are so unhappy. Zoos put large amounts of stress on animals because they are not natural habitats. There was a study conducted with 40 chimpanzees, each coming from six different zoos. All of the chimps were different from those that were in the wild. All 40 chimps had bad habits, such as rocking back and forth, self-mutilation, and ripping out their hair.

“The caged eagle became a metaphor for all forms of isolation, the ultimate imprisonment. A zoo is a prison,” said Nadine Gordimer, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in literature.  Zoos are incapable of providing enough supplies for animals, and they can’t even give them the proper habitat as an animal’s place is in nature. The AWA (Animal Welfare Act) states that basic rights for animals are that they must be fed, given water, etc. However, they only require that animals have enough space to stand up, sit down, and move around a little. After animals have made friends and become social, they are often moved to different zoos, which is just cruel. Imagine that you’ve just made friends at a school, but then you have to move schools again, that’s how the animals feel. Animals that are released from zoos to the wild have shown to have a higher death rate because they’ve become so accustomed to their life in captivity.

“For most of the wild things on Earth, the future must depend upon the conscience of mankind,” said Dr. Archie Carr, a conservationist and zoologist who is regarded as the “father” of sea turtle conservation and research.  As unfortunate as it sounds, animals are still abused in zoos to this day. Roughly 70% of elephants in European zoos were illegally taken from the wild, aquariums from Sea Life (Sea Life is a chain of sea-life themed attractions) actually owned up to taking animals from the wild in 2013. In 1998 elephants were trained to do tricks, and the trainers often hit the elephants with elephant hooks when they did something wrong. In 1998 that probably wasn’t as big a deal as it is now, but animals were reported to be abused in years as recent as 2010. In 2010, an elephant was brutally trained by people who would hit the elephant with an electric goad (a goad is a spiked stick which is used to drive animals, especially cattle) every time he/she did something wrong.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction,” said the great naturalist Rachel Carson. Zoos can affect an animal’s mental stability. In zoos, many big cats, as well as other carnivorous species, are affected by “repetitive location stereotype,” or in simpler words, pacing. Animals obtain this from being taken away from their environment; usually they are incapable of breaking their gaze or it seems like they’re in a trance. Not just big cats and carnivorous animals were seen with this, other animals such as elephants and any animals in zoos, circuses, roadside attractions, etc. Self-mutilation and over-grooming have both become huge problems. They’ve been groomed to a point at which their feathers/fur will fall out. Most of these are a result of staying in a zoo, not enough space, or even that they’re just lonely.

After reading this, do you think you could ever think of zoos the same way again? So, after knowing a little bit more about zoos, what do you think? Should animals be kept in captivity?

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Away From Home, Animals Held in Captivity