Keeping animals in cages in spite our love for them is a recipe for tragedy.
In the last couple of months several animals have been killed in zoos. Perhaps the most known case was Harambe's, the 1 year old silverback gorilla killed in the Cincinnati Zoo in May, after a three year old wandered into his enclosure and to rescue him Harambe was shot dead.
Similar cases happened in Latin America. In Santiago a 20 year old entered the lions enclosure and after failed attempts to keeps the animals away two lions were shot dead. In Brazil, Juma a jaguar was killed after she escaped during the Olympic flame ceremony in Manaus. Also Arturo, the 31 year old polar bear known to be depressed died in his home zoo in Mendoza.
Lastly, Bantú a 24 year old silverblack gorilla from the Chapultepec zoo died of a cardiorespiratory arrest after being sedated to transport him to Guadalajara to mate him with two females.
After this the debate on the existence of zoos was reopened, with only one clear conclusion, keeping wild animals in cages for our benefit can only be a recipe for tragedy. According to a BigThink's article, zoos have been around since the Egyptian menageries (3,500 BC), where the local ruler kept wild animals as symbols of power. They still remain popular with an estimated of 175 million visitors each year.
Despite some zoos have become more aware of animals needs and have built enclosures that resemble their natural habitats and provide better health care for them, animals are still suffering. According to The Guardian zoo tigers live in enclosures 18,000 times smaller than what nature provides for them and polar bears have a space 1 million tomes smaller than in the wild.
More so, according to a University of Bristol study found that zoo elephants in the UK spend 83% of the time indoors, many developed foot issues for being overweight and only 16% could even walk. The health ramifications for being in captivity are stunning. The average lifespan of an African elephant in the wild is 56 years, instead in a zoo they tend to live 16.9 years.
Also a Nature study from 2003 revealed 33 of the most popular zoo animals show signs of stress, have breeding difficulties and health issues while in captivity.
Nonetheless two reasons why zoos remain open. First, educating children about wild animals and preserving endangered species through breeding programs.
Seeing exotic animals in person can raise interest in conservation but a study published in Conservation Biology shows only 34% of the kids who visit zoos without an instructor learned anything and some of what they learn is factually incorrect.
Regarding the protection of endangered species the Association of Zoos and Aquariums says more than 229 accredited members have saved over 30 species but most of them cannot be returned to the wild. There have been some successful cases like manatees, bison and condors, but still it is 50 times more expensive to keep an animal in a zoo than to protect them in the wild.
Sanctuaries might be a better option. This is were rescued animals live both wild and domestic and can be found around the world. Still, TV documentaries on wildlife offer the best way to learn about animals and get really close to them.
LatinAmerican Post | Maria Andrea Marquez