Are Zoo Enclosures Too Small

Ava Flores
• Tuesday, 03 November, 2020
• 11 min read

I recently visited a zoo with my young cousins expecting the same leisurely experience. Maybe the change was caused by my recent visit to Africa and safari experience, but it finally hit me how differently the animals are forced to live compared to their natural lifestyles and habitats.

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(Source: www.tripadvisor.com)


We walked from one enclosure to the next reading about the life spans, eating habits, and natural habitats of the individual species and noticed how differently the animals lived from how the plaque told us they should. The depression and harsh conditions they experience can actually cause their lives to be much shorter than in the wild.

Behaviors like these are mainly caused by a lack of privacy, mental stimulation and physical exercise. Some zoos give tranquilizers or antidepressants to control these kinds of behaviors in animals.

They may also be sold to the public online, exotic meat companies, pet shops, circuses, or hunting ranches. The act requires only that there be enough space for each animal to be able to make “normal postural and social adjustments” with enough freedom of motion.

In my opinion, zoos have several, strong positive attributes including their educational and conservation values. I believe that having private caretakers nurse sick or hurt animals back to health would be a better method for conservation than public zoos.

This way, the animals that are in good health could live in the wild as they are meant to, and the common cycles of nature could continue. Zoos have existed in some form since at least 2500 BCE in Egypt and Mesopotamia, where records indicate giraffes, bears, dolphins, and other animals were kept by aristocrats.

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Robin Gannet, PhD, President and CEO of American Humane, stated, “zoos provide people, especially impressionable children, with the opportunity to see these remarkable animals up close. No matter how closely programs like Planet Earth depict animals, nothing will match the bond of seeing them in real life.

Because so many diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans, such as Ebola, Antivirus, and the bird flu, zoos frequently conduct disease surveillance research in wildlife populations and their own captive populations that can lead to a direct impact on human health. For example, the veterinary staff at the Bronx Zoo in New York alerted health officials of the presence of West Nile Virus.

Zoo research is used in other ways such as informing legislation like the Sustainable Shark Fisheries and Trade Act, helping engineers build a robot to move like a sidewinder snake, and encouraging minority students to enter STEM careers. Corroborate frogs, eastern bongos, regent honeyeaters, Panamanian golden frogs, Bellinger River snapping turtles, golden lion tamarins, and Amur leopards, among others, have also been saved from extinction by zoos.

Zoos are also working to save polar bears, tigers, and wild African elephants from habitat loss, apes and rhinos from poachers, dolphins and whales from hunters, and bees and butterflies from population declines, among many other efforts to help many other animals. 23% of birds and 47% of small mammals (weighing less than about 2.2 pounds) are negatively impacted by climate change.

By keeping populations of animals and conducting wild depopulation, zoos can help preserve species in danger from climate change. A joint conservation effort between the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos with other organizations resulted in a population of 276 California condors in the wild and another 170 in captivity by 2016.

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A review published in Animal Studies Repository concluded, “to date there is no compelling or even particularly suggestive evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, and interest in conservation in visitors.” Even a study widely cited to justify the argument that zoos educate the public stated, “there was no overall statistically significant change in understanding seen” because visitors know a lot about ecology before going to the zoo. Romes Jeganathan, a British comedian, stated, “It still slightly surprises me that anybody thinks that we should have zoos at all.

The animals always look miserable in captivity… he idea that kids only get excited about things they can see in the flesh is ridiculous. A study of 35 species of carnivores, including brown bears, cheetahs, and lions, found that zoo enclosures were too small for the animals to carry out their normal routines, which led to problems such as pacing and more infant deaths.

Of 77 elephants in 13 zoos, 71 were overweight and spent 83% of their time indoors, contributing to early death. The animals experience these issues due to smaller enclosures, changes in diet and activities, and the introduction of things not seen in the wild, such as medical exams and people with cameras.

The Toledo Zoo ran a psychiatric program in which a gorilla with premenstrual depression was prescribed Prozac. To ease them into new habitats, an agitated tiger was given Valium, and anxious zebras and wildebeests were given Hall.

A study of captive chimpanzees found that “abnormal behavior is endemic in the population,” and includes behaviors such as eating feces, twitching, rocking back and forth, plucking hair, pacing, vomiting, and self-mutilation, among others. Click for an Encyclopaedia Britannica video about the importance of genetic diversity in captive breeding.

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(Source: www.zoochat.com)

20, 2017 US Fish & Wildlife Service, “California Condor Population Information,” FRS.gov, May 7, 2018, Jan Fleur, “Long Way Home as Przewalski’s Horses Fly to Mongolia,” phys.org, July 19, 2018, Jane Palmer, “The World’s Last Truly Wild Horse,” bbc.com, Nov. 11, 2015 Lori Marino, et al., “Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? At least half the animal enclosures at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) are unfit for its occupants.

Ironically, much of the new area allotted for the zoo expansion “has been occupied by the parking place, entrance plaza and selected facilities and restaurants already constructed”, said Mr. Ago in the master plan. Also in need of modification are the enclosures for Caiman crocodiles, facials, giant squirrels, turtles, tortoise, and the aviary pond, none of which meets minimum standards.

There is a need for “environmental enrichment” to prevent “stereotypical behavior” . Mr. Ago has said that the 38-year-old zoo has grown in a “haphazard fashion” and without a “comprehensive scientific management plan”.

As for the operation theater, it is indicated that it is not air-conditioned and lacks a modern anesthetic machine and infrared thermometer for measuring temperature from a distance. However, in a rejoinder to The Hindu report of November 19, 2009, titled “273 animals die in four months at Bannerghatta Zoo ”, Mr. Ago maintained that “BBP has a full-fledged veterinary healthcare unit-like zoo hospital with operation theater equipped with X-ray machine and comprehensive range of drugs, including tranquilizing drugs and equipment”.

The origin of all such seized animals remains unknown, and it is difficult to know the status of their stress, starvation, suffocation, traumatized condition”. However, it is noteworthy that star tortoises arrived at BBP in 2006, the slider turtles in 2008 and Japanese quails in 2008.

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Some animals thrive in captivity, but other species die young, don't reproduce, and show bizarre, repetitive behaviors. Captive polar bears, for instance, spend much of their day pacing back and forth, and clouded leopards pluck their fur out.

Behavioral biologists Georgia Mason and ROS Club of the University of Oxford, U.K., reasoned that how well animals adapt to zoo life might vary with how they live in the wild. In the 2 October issue of Nature, they report that the larger the home range, the higher the frequency of pacing and the more infant deaths in captivity.

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Among the worst off were polar bears, which have a home range of 1000 square kilometers or more--about 1 million times bigger than their average enclosure, Mason says. In contrast, brown bears, with a minimum range of 0.5 square kilometers, spent only 10% of the day pacing and had negligible infant mortality.

This is the “most extensive” work on the well-being of captive carnivores, says behavioral ecologist Marc Benioff of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Animals that roam far and wide in the wild fare worst in zoos, British scientists have found.

Polar bears were found to be among the worst off when kept in captivity because of the striking difference between the area they typically cover in the wild and the size of their zoo enclosures. In an average year, a wild polar bear can roam over an area as large as greater London, yet their zoo enclosures are typically a million times smaller.

ROS Club and Georgia Mason, both zoologists at Oxford University, gathered data on the wellbeing of carnivores from zoos and other types of secure animal housing around the world. The scientists compared how much time the animals spent pacing with the size of their typical hunting grounds in the wild.

How many times smaller the average zoo enclosure is compared with animals' natural roaming range: However, we are suggesting that a plan is put in place so that zoos are phased out over a 25- to 30-year period, building up a record of important details about diet, space and reintroduction processes.

exhibit animal cat building arabian wild zoochat
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Let us start with an assessment and critique of the three principle arguments for zoos, to help us understand what the available data suggests must be done. Of the approximately 850 mammal species and subspecies held in European zoos, 500 are assessed as of the least concern on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, and only 45 (5 per cent) are critically endangered.

Of those 45 critically endangered, we estimate as few as three are actually viable when taking into account the issues of hybridization, disease and genetic diversity. This means that, by their own admission, around 95 per cent of animals in European zoos are not important or relevant enough to merit breeding programs, and almost all have the same issues: hybridization, low levels of genetic diversity, and disease.

For decades, they have argued that seeing live animals helps educate and mobilize the next generation of conservationists. In our view, keeping hundreds of thousands of animals in captivity, just so that a minuscule percentage of people might become active conservationists, is far too high a price to pay.

Take the plethora of sublime wildlife documentaries that are so much more informative, such as David Attenborough’s work. If you can get a master’s degree in paleontology without having living dinosaurs to study, clearly you can be passionate about wildlife conservation without visiting a zoo.

This is in the country of Congo, surrounded by aggressive habitat destruction, civil war and poaching, and all done without any captive breeding. History shows captive-born animals have made contributions to improved wild status of only a handful of mammal species.

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European bison, Przewalski’s horse and Arabian onyx have all been brought back from extinction using zoo -bred animals, but the list is short. The foundation has successfully released into the wild captive-born animals of several species, including the western gorilla, black rhino, Javan gibbon, Javan languor, grizzled languor, brown hyena, Przewalski’s horse and European bison.

This reinforces our view that the gorilla population is clearly not at the tipping point where there is any need to hold them in captivity. Even if the population reached an alarmingly low level, it would still be possible to conserve the species in situ rather than in zoos.

Consequently, the greater bamboo lemur has been removed from the list of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. The problem of poaching in the wild is common knowledge, and zoos use this as an excuse to hold elephants in captivity.

By contrast, there are more than 20,000 African elephants in protected reserves, private and public in South Africa alone, with very little poaching. This highlights the general zoo mentality of wildlife import, and in effect consumption, being prioritized over in situ conservation.

There are far too many examples of misalignment of funds to list, so the simple question is: with the money zoos raise through charitable means, is this better spent on a new enclosure, or protecting wildlife and habitat in situ? Over many generations, individuals from different subspecies and sometimes from the same genetic lines were bred together without any coherent strategy.

lion happy feeling tell zoo rostock guide
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While zoos have become aware of this recently and are trying to phase out hybridization, the fact is this affects the vast majority of animals in captivity and is impossible to rectify. What zoos don’t want you to know is that a great number of captive species carry some form of disease that again negates any conservation value and precludes them from ever being reintroduced to the wild.

We have struggled to find more than a handful of worthwhile species in the entire worldwide collection, amongst the thousands held in captivity, that have any true conservation value. We propose a plan to phase out zoos over a 25- to 30-year period, starting with certain species clearly not suitable for captivity.

We believe the diet of animals in captivity is generally substandard with a lack of variety and quality, which must be quickly improved. If zoos oppose these views then we invite them to respond and list all the reasons why they keep each of their species, how they are dealing with disease, hybridization and non-viable populations in a conservation context, and to justify all the money they spend on enclosures.

The Spinal Foundation has learned much in regard to animal reintroductions over the last few years, and we try to pass our knowledge on, but all too often conventional thinking in zoos denies this possibility. As a consequence, we have made very little progress in convincing other institutions that reintroductions are a viable conservation tool at their disposal.

The Spinal Foundation believes that many animals, threatened and non-threatened, that are currently in captivity could be found homes in the wild or semi-wild. Our experience has shown that animals once thought impossible to be reintroduced back into the wild can be, if the necessary commitment and resources are in place.

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The foundation protects more than a million acres over the Bat eke plateau, which spans the borders of Congo and Gabon, and by reintroducing a key stone species like the gorilla, this provides umbrella protection for iconic species such as elephants, chimpanzees, forest buffalo and lions The foundation has worked on similar reintroduction projects across the world with the black rhino, Javan gibbon, Javan languor, grizzled languor, European bison, brown hyena and Przewalski’s horse.

Conservation and reintroduction efforts are at the core of the foundation’s thinking and planning, and should also be for all zoos globally. We will continue to lead the world in reintroductions of zoo -born mammals and will release further species back to the wild.

We will continue work on researching relevant issues such as genetics and disease risk, and we will invest at least 10 per cent of the value of gate receipts into in situ projects. We recognize and value the great work of the dedicated zookeepers around the world, who are all passionate about animal welfare and conservation.

All health records, as well as hybridization issues, should be open, transparent and made clear to the public, and full genetic profiles should be built up of all species. We recommend guidelines are put in place immediately to provide all animals with privacy and not to be locked out for extended periods to avoid stress.

Animal training for research or veterinary reasons has to have specific goals and guidelines to avoid unnecessary interference in their natural behavior. Bureaucracies and zoo programs have a stamp collector’s mentality and an appetite and preference to please the public with iconic and non-threatened species, leading to their needless captivity and “consumption” for entertainment.

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