World Wildlife Day 2023: Animal Captivity Is A Harmful Distraction from Actual Conservation Efforts

World Wildlife Day 2023: Animal Captivity Is A Harmful Distraction from Actual Conservation Efforts

Not a day goes by with out one of many world’s roughly 10,000 zoos saying the beginning of a captive-born resident. From elephants to rhinos, these beginning bulletins are invariably accompanied by the daring declare that this new child, born into captivity, helps to safe the way forward for their species. To rejoice World Wildlife Day 2023, which yearly falls on March 3, Born Free USA’s Packages Director Liz Tyson-Griffin discusses the problems associated to wild animal captivity and what conservation efforts ought to actually appear like.

Wild Animal Captivity

In February 2023, a rhino was born at a zoo in Kansas. The zoo proprietor acknowledged within the press that beginning helps in “preserving species who’re on the point of extinction.” one other articlecelebrating the beginning of dual elephants in Syracuse, New York, in November 2022, mentioned that “their beginning helps enhance the endangered species’ inhabitants.”

When Amur leopard cubs had been born in St. Louis Zoo in Might 2022, zoo employees had been quoted as saying: “There are so few of those uncommon massive cats left on this planet and every beginning is extraordinarily essential for the survival of the species.”

Likewise, a beginning announcement for a giraffe born on the Virginia Zoo in October 2022 included the declare that, as a result of the species is endangered: “The beginning of this latest calf is very essential.”

The listing goes on.

Zoos have lengthy claimed that breeding wild animals in captivity serves to ensure the survival of the species, to the extent that the Affiliation of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) coordinated breeding packages are named Species Survival Plans (SSP). The aim of the plans is “a cooperative animal administration, breeding, and conservation effort that works to make sure genetically numerous, self-sustaining populations of greater than 500 species of animals.”

For AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, conservation is “a precedence” and “a key half” of their mission to save lots of species from going extinct. However regardless of each overarching and particular examples of zoos claiming to save lots of species from extinction, animals held in zoos have little to no alternative for launch to the wild. Somewhat than the proverbial “ark” saving species from extinction, zoos are higher described as silos for species held captive whereas wild populations proceed to combat for his or her very survival. Zoos declare to mitigate species decline however, actually, each contribute to it and distract from the very actual threats dealing with free-living wild animals. Somewhat than breeding endangered animals for eventual launch again into their pure surroundings, zoo breeding packages breed animals to inventory their public reveals.

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Elephants in zoos are a major instance of animals that suffer, each from a conservation and a welfare perspective, when held captive in zoos.

Analysis carried out by Born Free and revealed in 2022 confirmed elephants have been captured from the wild to inventory zoos reveals within the US as not too long ago as 2016. For the captive Asian elephant inhabitants alone, it was calculated in 2000 that zoos in North America would want to import 4 elephants per 12 months to take care of the inhabitants on the present degree. Put merely, the deaths of elephants in zoos outnumbered births. Because of this, zoos are internet shoppers of elephants moderately than guardians of them because the trade would have us consider.

elephant in zoo

Not solely do zoos impression wild populations of elephants by taking them from their pure residence however elephants are stored in zoos additionally endure from poor welfare as it’s unimaginable for the captive surroundings to fulfill their extraordinarily advanced and particular wants. Captive elephants, notably calves, are extra probably than their free-living counterparts to die from Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus Haemorrhagic Illness (EEHV-HD), a illness so lethal that it’s the most typical explanation for demise for toddler elephants in zoos. Whereas EEHV-HD is latently carried by each captive and free-living populations, captive deaths are proportionally a lot increased than these in free elephant communities.

Given the mortality charges of captive elephants, it’s disturbing if not stunning to study of the determined measures zoos take to pressure elephants to breed. An instance is Chai, an elephant who died in 2016 at Oklahoma Metropolis Zoo. Chai was forcibly inseminated 112 occasions in her lifetime. The method required her to be anchored by her ft and have a three-foot hose inserted into her reproductive tract. The coaching for her to simply accept this invasive process took two years. When all makes an attempt at pressured insemination had been unsuccessful, Chai was moved from Woodland Park Zoo, the place she was dwelling at the moment, to Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri. The transfer went forward in 1998 regardless of the Missouri zoo experiencing an outbreak of EEHV-HD and the chance that Chai might convey it again with him. Regardless of Chai being attacked and injured by the opposite elephants on the Missouri facility, and shedding about 1,300 kilos in the course of the 12 months she was away from her residence zoo, she returned to Woodland Park pregnant. Her calf Hansa died from EEHV-HD at simply seven years previous.

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Different zoo favorites, similar to giraffes, additionally suffers enormously in zoos, whereas their free-living counterparts are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation and abusive practices similar to trophy looking. In North America, no less than 103 zoos maintain near 600 captive giraffes. For giraffes, the world’s tallest land mammal, captivity presents a number of welfare points, not least due to their enormous measurement, climactic wants, the pure tendency to roam nice distances, and their adaptation to spend round 60% of their time foraging.

The straightforward act of preserving them captive can kill giraffes; a number of people have died due to the enclosures they’re stored in. For instance, in 2010, a giraffe died at Cincinnati Zoo when her horns obtained entangled in netting, and a three-year-old giraffe at Peoria Zoo obtained his neck caught within the fork of a tree in the identical 12 months. He died in entrance of holiday makers after flipping over making an attempt to free himself. In 2015, a giraffe died after working into the perimeter fence of her enclosure in a single zoo, and at one other zoo, a child giraffe died after their neck grew to become entangled in wire. In 2016, a giraffe collapsed after getting his head caught between two posts at Zoo Miami, and the next 12 months, one other giraffe was discovered useless after getting caught up in a toy-like piece of apparatus in one other facility. In February 2023, a giraffe died after getting his neck caught in a gate at Seneca Zoo in New York State.

giraffes in zoo

Giraffes would naturally spend round a 3rd of their day strolling. Their pure vary has been calculated to be between 1,326 and 127,012 acres. In distinction, the common zoo enclosure for giraffes in US zoos is 1.2 acres. The smallest giraffe enclosure within the nation is simply 0.17 acres and is discovered on the Los Angeles Zoo. As well as, giraffes spend a big a part of their day feeding on leaves and stems of bushes and shrubs and rumination is their dominant exercise at night time. As such, feeding is just not solely of dietary significance to them, but additionally behaviorally important. Even with the most effective of intentions, it’s unimaginable for zoos to offer enough looking to satisfy their dietary and behavioral wants, which results in each bodily and psychological well being points for the animals. Bodily well being points embrace important weight reduction and dental points, amongst different situations. In Europe, a survey revealed that no less than 48% of giraffes had been in poor to emaciated physique situation on the time of demise. Psychological well being points for captive giraffes typically manifest in stereotypic behaviors similar to bar biting, licking non-food objects, or pacing. In a survey of giraffes in AZA zoos, 79.7% of them demonstrated stereotypes.

Polar Bears

polar bears held captive in zoos is among the extra excessive examples of the best way during which animal captivity fails to offer satisfactory dwelling situations for wild animals in addition to the best way during which zoos not solely fail to handle the very actual threats dealing with free-living animals but additionally contribute to the very points they declare to ameliorate.

A polar bear’s vary might be as much as tens of hundreds of sq. miles, but a 2003 report confirmed {that a} typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear was 0.23 acres. That is one millionth the dimensions of their pure vary – across the measurement of an Olympic swimming pool. When the polar bears’ aquatic vary is taken into account along with the land vary, the image for captive bears turns into an altogether bleacher. Polar bears are reportedly able to swimming 427 miles over 9 days, but US laws suggest a water floor space of ​​simply 97 sq. ft (9 sq. meters) and a depth of simply 5 ft (1.5 meters).

polar bears in zoo

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Along with the welfare impacts of preserving polar bears in zoos, the considerably ironic fact is that preserving these bears in captive environments negatively impacts local weather change – the bear’s essential risk of their pure habitat. The development of the polar bears’ enclosures, the water remedy, local weather management, meals manufacturing, and total zoo infrastructure all create important emissions that impression the surroundings negatively. Certainly, the carbon footprint of zoos, on the whole, is big – one thing that’s hardly ever acknowledged regardless of zoo claims that they exist to serve conservation objectives.

The Reality About Animal Captivity

The reality is that, regardless of daring claims of serving conservation, saving species from extinction, and educating future generations of conservationists, the first goal of zoos is to carry animals captive for leisure. Individuals get pleasure from seeing wild animals and zoos in a handy and accessible means to do this. Virtually with out exception, animals born in zoos will die in zoos – they won’t be launched into the wild. It’s time we acknowledge that holding captive wild animals for all times and over generations is just not solely dangerous to the welfare of the animals themselves however can be a harmful distraction away from the true threats dealing with these animals of their pure habitats.

As an alternative of supporting zoos and perpetuating the lifelong captivity of animals, true conservation efforts, which concentrate on defending animals of their pure ranges and deal meaningfully with the customarily advanced points dealing with free-living animals, are the place our efforts needs to be centered.

This text was written by Liz Tyson-Griffin, PhD, Born Free USA Packages Director


Bashaw, MJ, Tarou, LR, Makia, TS and Maple, TL (2001). “A survey

Clauss, M., Rose, P., Hummel, J. and Hatt, JM. (2006). “Serous fats atrophy and different nutrition-related well being issues in captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) – an analysis of 83 necropsy studies.” in: Congress of the European Affiliation of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians. Budapest: EAZWV, pp. 233-235.

Leuthold, BM and Leuthold, W. (1978). “Daytime exercise patterns of gerenuk and giraffe in Tsavo Nationwide Park, Kenya.” East African Wildlife Journal, 16, pp. 231-243.

Concerning the Creator:

​​Dr. Liz Tyson-Griffin is Born Free USA’s Packages Director. She has helped animals throughout the globe. She helped to determine the very first locally-run sterilization program for avenue canine within the Center East; labored with indigenous communities within the Colombian Amazon to finish the looking of untamed primates; run a UK charity campaigning to finish the exploitation of animals in circuses and zoos; and helped design a brand new rehabilitation advanced for rescued monkeys at Born Free’s sanctuary in Ethiopia, Ensessa Kotteh. In 2018, she earned her doctorate in Animal Welfare Regulation.

Liz not too long ago revealed her e book, Licensing Legal guidelines and Animal Welfare: The Authorized Safety of Wild Animals, with Palgrave MacMillan/Springer Nature. The e book outlines the findings of her doctoral analysis, which is probably the most complete research of the authorized safety of untamed animals in English zoos carried out so far.

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