The other night, I watched (majority) of a documentary called ‘Should We Close Our Zoos?’. The topic of whether or not animals should be kept in a zoo is a heavily debated issue.
I love having the opportunity to see animals up close, and I am also extremely passionate about their welfare, so this issue has always been a conflicting one for myself. Yet, this documentary really helped clarify where I stand.
Host, Liz Bonnin, wonderfully and professionally explored both the pros and cons of zoos and aquariums, and spoke to a range of experts in the field including zoo keepers, conservationists, and primateologist Jane Goodall.
Conservation and care, versus freedom and behaviour were the contrasted ideas featured, and I can definitely understand both.
Sadly there are of course horrible sides to zoos. Footage of a giraffe being culled and fed to lions was shown in a Copenhagen zoo, and is said to be shamelessly carried out there. Yes, this is something that occurs regularly in nature, however in my opinion, not only is this a cruel practice, but is not how a zoo should be run.
They also spoke about the controversy surrounding Tilikim, the Orca famous from the documentary ‘Blackfish’. Unfortunately as I am typing this post, we have only heard a few days ago that Tilikim has sadly passed away. He died in captivity at 36 years old, half the life expectancy of a Killer Whale, apparently suffering from serious health issues. The whale was brought to seaworld after being taken off his mother as just a calf, meaning he spent his whole life away from a natural habitat and being used as a form of entertainment.
However, Zoos can be a way of protecting animals from dangers such as poachers or environmental changes, or even using science and breeding programs to save a species from becoming extinct.
Obviously comparing to the state of zoos many years ago, these places today are much kinder, and people have much more knowledge about providing sufficient living areas. Not the small, concrete cages animals were viewed in years ago.
One part of the show that really spoke to me was the critical case of the Northern White Rhino. Bonnin went and saw one of the 5 remaining Rhinos left in the world, and it absolutely broke my heart. The amazing part was that they were trying many methods such as breeding and stem cell research to try and re-populate these beautiful animals. This could not be done simply in the wild or without zoo programs.
According to other sources, there are sadly on 3 Northern Rhino’s left. We have to come to face the horrible truth that we may loose another incredible species. Action needs to be taken early, not before it’s too late!
Essentially, as started as an argument in the documentary, I am saying that zoos should be focusing on the animals best interest. Through continuing to have appropriate living areas, proper care, and being respectful to the animals, not treating them as simply a form of entertainment or viewing tool. We should be preserving all the incredible creatures that we share a planet with, and as long as animal welfare and conservation are the main priority of zoos, then I support them
If you are interested in viewing the full documentary, it is a BBC made program, and you can watch a preview of it here.
Remember, we need to use our voices to help make a difference to those who cannot speak – make our zoos conservation programs, not a collection of animals to speculate.