We can all agree on a zoo not being the ideal habitat for any of the animals living there because it is not their own, and they do not belong there but sometimes it is the only chance of survival these species have.
Sure we’d prefer to see an elephant wandering around the savannah, or an orangutan jumping from tree to tree in the jungle but human kind has condemned and harm their natural environment and most of the times in order to make an economical profit. This is what’s called the animal-human conflict and sadly, we, humans, seem to be winning the war.
Let’s think for a moment about the bigger picture. What happens if these animals disappear? Should we just let them? Should we let people keep destroying their habitat? Of course not, but reality isn’t always that simple and even though we are creating laws for the protection and conservancy of nature, there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving a stability.
Life is not black or white, there are so many greys in the middle so let us throw some thoughts about what Zoos, GOOD Zoos, ( please notice the adjective. Zoos like the ones who joined forces in the International Zoo Association or the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria) try to do for animals:
Good zoos do so much more than just display animals to visitors for their entertainment; they play a vital role in species at risk of extinction conservation thanks to breeding programs.
It takes time and patience to bring together a compatible male and female in the same enclosure. Many Zoos around the world work together to prevent inbreeding. The idea is to ensure as much genetic variation in the captive population as possible, this way species grow stronger and healthier.
It is also very important to talk about rescued animals, orphans that are found in nature alone because their parents are dead or those hurt animals that could not survive on their own. Zoos take them in and try to give them a 'better' life.
-No money changes hands
When one animal is transfer to another zoo money is not a factor involve in the matter. For this organizations it is not about the profit, it is about saving and protecting wildlife. They can only rescue animals from the wild that could not have survived on their own or take in animals from the black market and circuses that live in deplorable circumstances.
-Research and investigation
Zoos give us the opportunity to know more about animals. Some experts study animal behavior for a better understanding of the species and in order to be able to cover their needs, while others focus their attention on investigating new ways for maintaining and growing endangered species populations. By living with them, and thus, being able to observe their every move, experts can make more specific studies about ecosystems and guarantee the application of new techniques and medication in order to treat the animals and ensure their conservation. These is also extremely important for the reintroduction programs, by which animals raised or rehabilitated are released into their natural habitats.
Respect, care, understanding, empathy and protection are some of the main values that we should be taking out of their work. It is also a way of really knowing species that otherwise we would only dream of seeing and that we would only get to ‘meet’ through TV, Internet and the stories and pictures of those lucky enough to experience the real thing. Zoos give us the opportunity to connect with them.
We think this is the whole point, the reason ‘to be’ for this institutions. There’s no debate about how animals raised in captivity aren’t really free, and that being held in ‘cages’ is not where they should be, but where do we draw the line? Maybe we should think of this bars as a way not of keeping them from getting out but from keeping other dangers of getting in and harming them. Maybe and until we can find a way of creating a balance between human kind and the animal kingdom and for the long-term survival of numerous species.
We understand that this is not an easy subject but we are trying to be as objective as possible. As we have been pointing out all through the post, Zoos are not the ideal habitat for any of the animals living there and that is why we also wanted to mention some things that we believe play against animals in these spaces.
-Animals do not have enough space
At the end of the day, they live in cages, trapped behind bars and condemned to see how a bunch of humans look, point and throw food at them. They lose their instincts, their way of life and their connection to what makes them unique.
-They become the main attraction and entertainment
Animals should never be treated has toys or as an entertainment. We should consider them as our equals. They have the same right to live free in this planet as we do.
-We should protect animals in the wild
Fair enough, we are trying to protect species but we should keep in mind that what we really need to do is to protect their natural habitats. Creating laws that really punish the illegal trade as well as poachers and buyer; Enacting laws that can actually make a statement and create a balance between human 'progress' and nature, laws that can also originate an understanding of what nature represents and that protecting it, is the only way to go, the only way to live.