Last Updated 03 Aug 2020

Animals in Captivity

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The zoo is packed with children, running everywhere. They laugh and smile as they watch the animals at the zoo sleep. What these children do not realize is that these animals are dying on the inside. Animals that live at the zoo are extremely depressed. These animals can suffer severe psychological disorders from being out of their natural environment. But others argue that keeping these animals in captivity will help keep endangered species alive. However, the disadvantages of keeping animals in captivity are becoming more and more serious, and more people are beginning to believe that animals should not be held captive.

Animals should not be kept in captivity because of the negative impact it can have on their life. On Christmas Day, in the year 2007 a tiger broke out of its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo. Once out of its cage, the tiger attacked 3 people, severely injuring two people, and killing one. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that this tiger had shown aggression towards people. A year before this incident, this tiger had injured a zoo keeper during a public feeding (Roberts, 2008).

In captivity animals are isolated from their natural habitat, and are provided with very little physical and mental stimulation. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), facilities with potential dangerous animals, must have appropriate safety procedures in order to prevent attacks by these animals. Sadly, these procedures were not followed at the San Francisco Zoo (Roberts, 2008). Another incident like this occurred with a killer whale and its trainer. Dawn Brancheau was drug to the bottom of her killer whale’s tank at Sea World in Orlando, Florida.

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Although these whales are called, “killers” there is no record of them killing human beings in the wild. According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, attacks by killer whales in captivity happens more than you think (McCarthy, 2010). Why do these animals attack in captivity and not in the wild? The answer to this question is believed to be linked to captivity related stress. In the wild, these animals are very social, living with 10 to 20 other whales. Placing these animals in captivity alters their behavior, and leads these animals to have unpredictable anger.

Because of this animal welfare campaigners believe that killer whales should not be placed into captivity, but you can not just place the animals that were so easily caught into the wild again (McCarthy, 2010). People argue that keeping these kinds of animals in captivity provides the world with numerous educational benefits, but accidents like this are happening more and more. These incidents make a person wonder if these animals were never to be placed into captivity, would these tragedies have happened. Animals should not be kept in captivity because it has been proved to have a negative impact on their lives.

Generally, animals that live in zoos suffer from poor well-being. Although, these animals receive veterinary care that they normally would not receive in the wild, they can suffer from severe stress. Evidence has been found that psychological needs of these animals are not being met. Not only do these animals suffer mentally, but they also suffer physically too. After being placed in captivity, some animals can become susceptible to opportunistic infections such as jaw abscesses (Mason, 2009). Also the giraffe has a short lifep in captivity then it would normally have in the wild.

The reasoning behind this is that they have low energy intake in the wild and poor nutritional status (Mason, 2009). Many animals that live in captivity do not seem the flourish in the same way that they would in the wild. Many animals that live in captivity do not get the kind of exercise that their bodies need, especially elephants (Smith, 2008). Being locked up in a facility might be helping these animals avoid poachers, but the lack of exercise is causing cardiovascular disease. Elephants that live in captivity do not live nearly as long as they would in the wild. 7 elephants were examined at a British zoo, and only 11 of them were able to walk correctly. It is said that advancements are being made to improve elephant environments in captivity, but numerous zoos have shut down their elephant attractions (Smith, 2008). Many people are attracted to keeping wild animals as pets. They believe the wild animals to be interesting and exciting. At a young age, the animals may seem easier to tame, but the older these animals get, the more aggressive they tend to become. Many problems can develop from keeping a wild animal as a pet.

Wild animals have specific needs that have to be met, in order for them to prosper. “Only the most exceptional zoos and wildlife centers provide a living area that somewhat resembles the natural habitat of these animals, but it is virtually impossible to provide sufficient space for larger species”(CFHS). In captivity animals do not lose their wild instincts. They can be extremely unpredictable, and if provoked they can cause severe harm to people. Some wild animals, such as reptiles and hedgehogs can actually carry bacteria called salmonella, which is very easily transmitted to humans.

Exotic animals can be very social, and need to have a companion of the same species living with them. If the animal is kept isolated from its kind, then it can suffer psychologically (CFHS). Many wild animals that are kept as pets often get abandoned because the owner was not able to meet of its needs. Others try to place the animal back into its natural habitat, but after being in captivity for many years, the animal is not able to re-adapt to this environment. When these animals are abandoned, it is difficult to find a new home for them.

Sadly, most of these animals end up being humanely euthanized, or die from stress of being moved from one environment to another (CFHS). There are strict guidelines for some animals such as penguins that live in captivity. In some areas of the world, it is actually illegal to hold these animals captive. Due to some of the elements that penguins are exposed to in captivity, some can become very ill, or even die (Penguin Facts, 2009). Although, a lot of these facilities are cleaned regularly, the illnesses can spread extremely fast to members of the penguin colony without warning.

If the illness continues to spread throughout the colony then the penguins are all at risk of becoming ill, or even possibly dying (Penguin Facts, 2009). When new members are added to a colony, penguin may feel the urge to migrate, which is an instinct they must ignore in captivity(Penguin Facts, 2009). In zoos, it is commonly seen that two males or two females will have a relationship, but in the wild this is not seen (Penguin Facts, 2009). Another animal that does not do well in captivity is the monkey.

Behind bars these animals are well fed and safe, but they will never be able to socialize with other types of monkeys like they normally would be able to in the wild. Victor Hugo explains, "People think they can tame these wild creatures because they're so cute when they're babies - but they inevitably bite someone and then become a problem"(Macaskill, 2011). Monkeys are believed to be cute and cuddly creatures, but this animal can actually feel threatened by this kind of attention from a human. Eventually, leading to attacking what it feels threatened by, as it would do in the wild.

According to Victor, “Every day a monkey spends in captivity makes a difference and once they've become too humanized, they become non-releasable" (Macaskill, 2011). An argument many have placed in the defense of zoos is educational benefits and conservation. Not all zoos are bad. According to Michael Hutchins, PhD, director and William Conway Chair of the Department of Conservation and Science for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, there are two kinds of zoos, zoos that meet AZA standards and zoos that just aren’t up to par (Keuhn, 2011).

He also discussed that in the past few years, zoos have changed from focusing on preserving species by captive breeding to preserving habitats and species that live in the wild. Zoos support conservation by educating members of society, and raising money for conservation projects. They can also help develop technologies, and with scientific research (Keuhn, 2011). It is said that by observing animals in captivity, scientists can find valuable information that they would not be able to gather in by observing animals in the wild. However, conservation is not justification for zoos.

Dr. Hutchins says that animal welfare is equally important. The AZA has taken a number of steps to improve animal welfare. They must promote natural habitats, and ensure quality care of their animals. They have also outreached to substandard zoos, to help close down the worst facilities (Keuhn, 2011). Some people argue that animals do not have rights. They believe that in order to keep endangered species alive, the animals must be captured. Zoos can also provide animals with safety from poachers and wildlife predators (Nakate, 2010).

Some zoos do treat animals in a harsh manner, but there is improvement being made in the quality of care being provided to animals. There are many educational benefits that zoos and conservation centers provide people with. These places are trying to make more people aware of the environment (Nakate, 2010). Many schools take field trips to zoos in order to educate children, early in their lives about animals, and their environment. Teaching children about the environment, at a young age will help raise awareness about environmental issues later on in their lives.

Terminating all zoos would hinder knowledge about some animals. For many scientists, it is hard for them to get a good look at animals in the wild. By placing some of these creatures in captivity, it enables scientists to get a closer look at these species and their behavior. Without zoos, conducting research would become a hassle. Scientists would have to go into the wild for several days to track the animal down, then once found, they would have to try to observe from a safe distance. Most penguins seem to do fairly well in zoos, and conservation centers.

Captivity is beneficial to penguins that have been injured in the wild, and would have died without the help from animal caretakers (Penguin Facts, 2009). In the wild, penguin eggs have the chance of being destroyed by predators, but in captivity there is a chance for all the eggs to survive. Also, this gives animal caretakers a chance to help feed the baby penguins that the adults will not care for (Penguin Facts, 2009). Ultimately, captivity is very beneficial to the penguin population. Although, it may seem like zoos and other conservation centers provide people with educational benefits that is not always the case.

Most children, who visit the zoo, do not even read the informational guides that are placed at each exhibit. Generally, people spend a few moments at each display, to take pictures of the animals then move on to the next without even taking a glance at any information given. While, not all zoos are bad, many zoos out there do not take proper care of their animals, leading them to a lifetime of misery, and pain. Without proper care, animals cannot function normally. Animals that do not live in their natural environment do not get the right amount of socialization that they need.

This can cause severe physiological effects on them. The stress of moving animals from one environment to another can be harmful as well. Even though these animals are captive, they are still wild animals, and have natural instincts to protect themselves. If an animal in captivity believes it is in danger, it will attack a human, causing severe injury, or death. Some animals in captivity will attack just because it is in their nature. Once placing an animal in captivity, it cannot be placed back into its natural environment. Animals have a hard time re-adapting to the wild.

Placing animals in captivity has its obvious benefits, but do these benefits outweigh the disadvantages that it has on an animal? When placing animals in zoos, people are not thinking about the natural well-being of them. They are only thinking of the scientific benefits and entertainment values that these animals bring to the world. Keeping animals in zoos may help out endangered species, but they will never be able to prosper outside of the cages of those facilities. Is an animal truly an animal when it’s trapped behind bars?

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