At some point in our lives, we have all been extremely fond of zoos, it was like a field trip for us – going out with our families or with friends during school trips. It was magical to watch these beautiful animals roaming around inside their enclosures, the best part being that, you could have a close look at them and sometimes feed them.
Lions and tigers, sitting and roaming around in all their glory, monkeys jumping, playing and coming close to the enclosure boundary for peanuts and gigantic elephants swinging their trunks – all these were the common sight at a zoo.
Our innocent minds back then thought it best for them to live in a safe and secured environment, away from predators and that too with free food! But as we grew up, an ugly realisation struck – this is not their home, they are not free and these helpless animals are suffering to serve as entertainers for us.
What is the purpose of a Zoo?
The primary purpose of a zoo is breeding endangered animals in captivity and reintroducing them in their natural habitats. A good zoo also provides the opportunity to observe animals and learn about their behaviour, hence, educating people about animals and a need for conservation.
Zoological gardens also fund many research projects for wildlife as these research results are crucial in order to understand the needs of the animals and what we need to do to protect them in the wild. It is true that zoos have an integral role to play in the conservation of animals when we can clearly notice the decrease in their numbers.
But, are all zoos good? Sadly, no. Some zoos exist only for the sake of profits. According to Animals Australia, "These few unethical zoos use baby animals as their biggest draw cards. Babies will often be bred even when there is not enough room to keep them, inevitably resulting in "surplus" animals."
In 2014, the world reacted with shock and outrage when a healthy 2-year-old giraffe named Marius was killed and cut up in front of spectators at the Copenhagen Zoo. His body was then fed to the lions.
We, as a society has accepted the fact that zoos are a normal part of our society. But there is nothing natural about tigers, lions, giraffes, elephants and bears living in an enclosed area within a city. There is nothing natural and normal about zoos, the animals belong in the wild, not in cities. Some of the most gruesome consequences of keeping animals captive are:
* In 2007, a kangaroo was euthanised after being hit by a train that runs through the Cleveland Zoo.
*In 2004, a 13-year-old male gorilla, Jabari, escaped from Dallas Zoo and was shot and killed by police.
*Recently, in 2016, a 17-year-old gorilla, named Harambe, was shot dead at Cincinnati Zoo when a four-year-old boy climbed into theenclosure.
*In the year 2000, An 18-year-old sloth bear named Medusa died of dehydration when Toledo Zoo officials locked her in a den to hibernate, not knowing that her species does not hibernate.
Only one sentence by Robert Brault can justify the abnormality behind the idea of holding animals captive, "The only creature on earth whose natural habitat is a zoo is the zookeeper."
Why do animals pace in zoos?
Wild animals spend the majority of their time hunting and stalking prey over large distances; it is in their nature to roam around and when they can't, they tend to get bored and ultimately, this leads to depression. Stress among zoo animals is so common that it has its own name: Zoochosis.
Zoochosis can include rocking, swaying, excessively pacing back and forth, circling, twisting of the neck, self-mutilation, excessive grooming, biting and vomiting. To counter these problems, some zoo authorities have been known to give anti-depressants or tranquilizers to affected animals. Animals such as lions, tigers and bears are used to hunting their prey but this is replaced by the zoo with regular feedings.
We are fortunate enough to live in a country, where until now we have not seen horrific incidents of animal cruelty. But there is one country i.e. Indonesia, which has only 4 decent wildlife parks out of a total of 58 registered zoos, according to its Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
According to PETA, "At Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia, animals are confined to trash-littered, barren, cramped cages that are merely fractions of the wild habitats that they would call home, and there is nothing in their cages and pens to occupy their keen minds.
It is a virtual hell on Earth for animals—a former member of the zoo's management estimates that 50 animals have died at the zoo in just the last three months, and this is just a small fraction of the animals who have suffered and died at the hands of this decrepit facility." Some of the most soul-destroying incidents from Indonesia are:
* A giraffe named Kliwon died at the zoo after swallowing nearly 20 kilograms of litter that had been thrown into his pen.
*Rozek, a 13-year-old Sumatran tiger, starved to death after his digestive tract rotted away from being fed meat laced with formaldehyde.
* Recently, Michael the lion was found dead, hanging from wires used to open the door of his cage.
Just a few days ago, a post about starving sun bears, begging for food was making rounds on social media. The disturbing video showed 3-4 bears with their ribs showing, begging for food from the visitors at the Bandung Zoo in Indonesia.
The visitors were seen throwing some junk food at them in the video that was shot in July 2016. One clip also shows a bear defecating and immediately eating its own faeces, which is a clear sign of stress and depression. This is the latest accusation against the zoo, which was previously accused of mistreating an elephant which later died after she was left lying on the hard ground without veterinary care for more than a week.
Reasons for such mistreatment of animals is not clear. The authorities, as usual decline of any such incidents, the government is inefficient to tackle this huge problem and the animal activists, in their wasted efforts, are everyday trying their best to shut down such zoos and protect and nurture these animals.
The sad part is, it is not just the authorities which are inhuman but the people are also so self-consumed that they simply ignore the plight of these animals. Taking pictures of food and selfies are fine, but selfies with depressed animals? Such was the case of Pizza – the world's saddest polar bear kept inside the Grandview mall in China for people to take selfies with it.
However, Pizza is temporarily removed from the mall after more than a million people signed a petition to remove him from the mall. However, Grandview says the move is only a temporary one while they renovate Pizza's enclosure.
Another such polar bear, Arturo, at the age of 30, died inside his concrete enclosure at Mendoza zoo in Argentina, four years after his longtime companion Pelusa died of cancer. Yet another incident caused by the selfish act of people resulted in the death of a baby dolphin in Bueno Aires. The defenceless dolphin was pulled out of the sea just so that tourists could take a selfie with it. The dolphin was kept out of water for too long, which resulted in a painful death.
The fact is, no amount of renovation, drugs and feeding can replace their natural habitat. Animals should be observed in their natural habitat. If one cannot afford to visit them, then they can opt for wildlife videos and channels or just by reading about them in magazines and books. We have no right to turn the wild into captives for our own entertainment.