Do zoos really conserve animals? MPs and mass media encourage families to take their children to zoos for a ‘grand day out’, as many animals are endangered. In truth, it’s not so simple. Freedom for Animals & Born Free are the main charities that campaign to close down most zoos, or at least bring better welfare to the animals that are already in them. Born Free found that most children spend 20 seconds at each animal enclosure, this suggests entertainment over education. Other problems with zoos include:
- Many animals are kidnapped from natural homes.
- Most bird cages in zoos are tall and narrow. But most birds fly horizontal (think of an eagle over a canyon). So this proves that their best interests are not considered.
- The climate in England and beyond is often not suited. Polar bears get too hot, tigers and lions are too cold.
- Most animals are so bored they show behaviour like pacing and head-bobbing. A few have tried to escape and either attacked people (they are not bad, just wild animals exhibiting natural behaviour) or been shot dead.
- Many ‘over-bred’ animals in zoos are shot (many British zoos are killed cubs, when too many are born).
- Experts say reptile houses should be natural swamps. Not tanks for artificial heat and light.
- Orcas (killer whales) have so little space at Seaworld, it’s like you living in a bathtub for life. The water is so shallow, that many have sunburn. Some are masturbated by humans, to release semen for breeding (one in Europe beached itself, some believing it was a suicide attempt).
If you want your children to love animals, don’t you want them to know how animals should live naturally in the wild? Showing them miserable animals at the zoo (or circus) is not the way to educate. Let them watch wild animals on the TV or better from books, then take them to see real animals at farm sanctuaries or to the beach, to introduce them to crabs (don’t catch them, just let them view from afar). Or take them on nature walks to observe wildlife where it should be – in the wild.
- You can report concerns of zoos or circuses here or abroad at Born Free (visitors) or Freedom for Animals (staff whistleblowers). Both these sites have heaps of info on why zoos are not the best way to conserve endangered species.
- Responsible Travel has tips on avoiding products that harm endangered species, and how to be an animal-friendly traveller, including avoiding ‘tiger temples’ and ‘elephant sanctuaries’ that are often gloried zoos.
- Read tips for wildlife-friendly travel and tips for vegan travellers abroad.
- Read Elephant Journey, the true story of three elephants who made the journey from captivity to a new life at an elephant sanctuary.
- Most circus animals live in small spaces, transferred from town to town, often abroad (mostly supported by western tourists). Reindeer here also travel around to shopping centres to ‘meet the children’ at Christmas. But they need special care and diets, and many are terrified by bright lights and noise. You can report any you to see to the charities above, who will try to educate.
- Romania’s Bear Sanctuary rescues roadside bears and now has over 60 bears who live in the wild (yet protected). Since their wonderful work, there are hardly any roadside zoos: