Should animals be kept in zoos or aquaria?
Zoos and Aquaria: a Prison for the Innocent
Halah Al Mohsen
Zoos and Aquaria: A Prison for the Innocent
“Elephant dies in Islamabad zoo due to Staff Negligence.” The shocking news was revealed at the Islamabad Zoo in Pakistan on May 2012. Saheli (the elephant’s name), was brought to the zoo as a gift from Government of Sri Lanka. Such incidences of exploitation and negligence to animals occur across various zoos, but only a few are reported.
Zoos and Aquaria are places that house various species of animals. These places provide us with aesthetic and academic resources. However, in these places animals are conserved in ex-site conditions, which are away from their normal habitats. In zoos and aquaria, we find animals in different ranges based on body sizes and different environments. The diversity of animals and other related species provides us with enjoyment and provides us knowledge regarding various aspects of the animal kingdom. However, keeping these animals away from their natural habitats puts them under stress and agony of captivity. Hence, there are two perspectives of analyzing whether animals should be kept in captivity or must be encouraged to live in their natural habitats like forests or reserved regions.
From the perspective of animal rights activists and environmental preservation bodies, it is an act of inhumanity since animals are deprived of their natural habitats and compromises with their freedom. From an economic and social perspective, such places provide a source of income generation for the state. These places are visited for recreational and educational purposes by people across various age groups. Hence, government bodies and state policy regulators voice to preserve animals in zoos and aquarium apart from financial purposes. In this paper, I will present alternative positions on the topic of animal captivity at the zoos and aquaria, in the perspective of animal welfare and rights, and national economy. I would voice for the preservation of animals in their natural habitats. However, the challenged animals may be reared in zoos.
The first perspective is concerned about animal welfare and animal rights. It can be debated that certainly animals are deprived of their natural environments and are kept in captivity. Like humans, animals also deserve the right to enjoy their freedom and habitation in their natural environments CITATION Edm15 l 1033 (Edmundson, 2015). Zoos and aquaria may be correlated like the imprisonment of humans and the effects that incarceration has on humans would similarly apply to animals too. Such effects may be physical, physiological and neurological. Various evidence has endorsed such findings. Zoos and aquaria are areas of confinement, not only on the physical mobility of animals but also their psycho-social behavior is compromised too. Although, various measures are taken by the zoo authorities ensure proper protection of these animals, they cannot ensure their mental status of happiness. Since, animals can differentiate between natural and fabricated environments.
Through her three years of research Braitman CITATION Bra14 n t l 1033 (2014) added to the compelling argument that animals suffer from neurological deficits. She gathered information from multiple places, based on confinement and captivity of animals, including zoos. Braitman (2014) concluded that the unnatural behavior of animals could be attributed to their displacement from natural habitats. She explained that abnormal animal behavior resembled humans’ to some degree. For example, depression and anxiety in gorillas and self-harming nature in dolphins were most notable. Like humans, animals also have the requirement to maintain social interactions within their community and like to be rewarded or punished in their habitats. They want to search for their partners, and just someone cannot be imposed upon them (as normally done in zoos). Thus, the emotional perspectives impact humans and animals similarly. If they are deprived of these natural instincts and behavioral appraisal, it is quite natural that various psychological ailments would impact them.
Further, there are issues related to staff negligence as pointed out earlier in this article. Staff negligence was attributed to understaffing and lack of requisite veterinary knowledge and skills to maintain animals in captive habitats. The staffs in most instances are not trained to understand animal psychology and leads to casualties as reported earlier. Popular stories have evidence of how poorly treated animals can be. In Argentina, a polar bear named Arturo, has been labeled as ‘the saddest animal in the world’ since he lives in a deteriorated place with heat over 100 Fahrenheit degree. Also, he does not have enough water to swim in. His friend died in 2012 and since then, he became lonely which resulted in his repetitive behavior, rocking back and forth, also known as Zoochosis CITATION Cav14 l 1033 (Cavanagh, 2014).
In addition to the fact that animal’s welfare is at stake when kept at the zoo, it returns us to the point where animals and humans should have equal rights since they have similar emotions and mental consistency (Isacat, 2015). He also advocated that zoos are harmful to animals and are often responsible for their abnormal expressions. Therefore, proponents of animal rights and welfare like animal rights activists, vegetarians, and anti-zoo campaigners consider animal rights by deliberative democracy theory, and the argument that we should not keep animals in zoos may be appreciated CITATION Had15 l 1033 (Hadley, 2015).
The second perspective is regarding the socio-economic perspective. In 2010, Beri, Tranent, and Abelson worked on a survey in which they contacted 117 zoos in Austraila, twenty-four of which have responded, and reported that the annual benefit from international zoo visitors only is about AU$58 million. They estimated around 15.4 million visits to the zoos per annum, which included about 3.3 million visits by international tourists and 12.1 million visits by Australian residents” CITATION Ber10 p 194 n y t l 1033 (p. 194). These statistics conclude the value of the existence of a zoo is financially beneficial. Zoos have also been the second most visited cultural entertainment than the rest of other forms of leisure activities. They are preferred over museums, libraries, and art galleries (Beri et al. 2010). A proponent of this perspective is The Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They are primarily concerned with the safety and care of animals in unprotected environments which incidentally represents the natural habitats of such animals CITATION Luk13 l 1033 (Luke, Wielebnowski, & Carter, 2013). Moreover, zoos acts as educational instruments and must be encouraged (Luke et al., 2013).
In conclusion, whether animals kept at the zoo get standard care and treatments, they still have the right to live independently in their natural habitats. The beneficial role of zoos in the economic perspective cannot be undermined too (Beri et al. 2010). Moreover, the cultural, aesthetic and educational values are quite endorsed for keeping animals in zoos. Such environment provides instant access to study the behavioral patterns of these animals and also creates a bond between them and human beings. People get a chance to understand them and learns from their lifestyle that cruelty to animals should be prevented. All said and done, still these animals deserve their natural habitats, and they should not survive under captivity, as in zoos. It would be ideal if only those animals could be brought into the zoo, who require special needs. Such needs may be physical, physiological and psychological. Therefore, zoos should act as places of successful rehabilitation. Once the crisis period of the animal is over, or their care needs are addressed, they should be released in their natural habitats. Such cycling could help to preserve both the perspectives, discussed in this article.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Beri, V., Tranent, A., & Abelson, P. (2010). The economic and social contribution of the zoological industry in Australia. International Zoo Yearbook, 44 (1), 192-200.
Braitman, L. (2014). Animal Madness. New York: Scribe.
Cavanagh, G. (2014, July 24). The World’s Saddest Polar Bear Is Staying Put in Argentina. Retrieved October 4, 2015, from Vice News: https://news.vice.com/article/the-worlds-saddest-polar-bear-is-staying-put-in-argentina
Edmundson, W. A. (2015). Do Animals Need Rights? The Journal of Political Philosophy, 23, 345–360.
Hadley, J. (2015). Animal Rights Advocacy and Legitimate Public Deliberation. Political Studies, 63, 696–712.
Isacat, B. (2015, 8). How to Do Animal Rights. Retrieved 10 3, 2015, from http://www.animalethics.org.uk/
Luke, D., Wielebnowski, N., & Carter, S. (2013). Animal Welfare: A Central Tenet of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 16 (4), 388-388.
Rees, P. A. (2009). The Sizes of Elephant Groups in Zoos: Implications for Elephant Welfare. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 12 (1), 44-60.
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