In Florida, the legal definition of an animal abuser is a person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal. Most people do not realize that some zoos and aquariums are considered animal abusers based on Florida’s legal definition. Torments and deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter stand out the most to me.
When someone hears torment, they would naturally think of physical torment, but there’s mental torment as well and that is what these zoo animals suffer from. Zoos torment them by depriving them from necessary sustenance and shelter. By looking at various captive, exotic animals, we will see the mental and physical effects these animals endure from being deprived from their natural habitat. This is important because it proves that some zoos do not have the animals’ best interest in mind.
When I was younger, I would go to SeaWorld with my family almost every weekend to watch the dolphins swim around. After a while, I would get dizzy after I watched the dolphins swim in the same circle over and over again. At the time it did not occur to me that that was not natural or healthy dolphin behavior. Pacing, or in this case, swimming in repeated patterns, is one of many effects from living in a captive environment.
A study conducted by Dr. Conant showed that captive lions spend 48% of their time pacing back and forth in their enclosures. In contrast, lions in the wild will spend at least 20 hours each day sleeping and resting. This is one clear example of how captive environments causes the animals to act abnormally and unnaturally.
If someone was asked if they thought the animals in the zoos were happy, they would most likely say yes. Animals unfortunately do not have the ability to speak to for themselves. So that is why we train our eye to watch their behaviors and actions. Their behaviors and actions is how they communicate with us. The public is not educated enough to know whether the animals in the exhibits they walk past are satisfied or not. They look at pacing and think the animal is just exercising.
They watch big cats continuously over-groom themselves and think that is just what cats do. None of them understand that these behaviors is not normal and they all stem from being stressed and/or depressed. These animals are designed to live in a certain way that humans cannot replicate for them. The larger zoo animals need miles of land to walk, and their herds to socialize with. Once they are put into an enclosure and taken away from their natural habitat, that is when they become mentally ill.
Some people like to argue and say that animals live longer in captivity due to the access of veterinarians. It is proven that the majority of those animals actually live longer in the wild due to a stress- free environment, mental stimulation, and exercise. Animals like orcas, dolphins, and elephants are high intelligent, highly social, and highly emotional animals that need their natural habitat in order to thrive.
Orcas are so intelligent, that different pods of orcas around the world have their own dialects and accents; just like us humans do in different countries. They also use their intelligence when hunting for food. There are records of so many different hunting methods by orcas. They do not stick to just one, they adapt and use the best technique to catch their prey. In captivity, humans are unable to hone orcas’ intelligence which leads to a bored and dangerous animal. Dolphins use a type of communication called echolocation.
They create high-pitched sound waves that bounce off of objects around them. In captivity, those high-pitched sound waves bounce off of the walls in their tank and that causes the dolphins to go deaf. Once again, humans are unable to create an environment to keep dolphins healthy and happy. Also, elephants in the wild form groups of almost 100 elephants. They all bond with each other and even mourn when a member of the group dies.
In captivity, elephants are forced to live in groups of 2 or live alone which leads to the elephant being stressed and depressed. Elephants are unable to creat bonds with each other because they are usually rotated into different enclosures with different elephants. Elephants, orcas, and dolphins live up to 70, 100, and 40 years old, but in captivity they only live up to 40, 13, and 5 years old. It is obvious that humans are not capable of mimicking the animals’ natural habitat to ensure the animals happiness.
There is a difference in putting wild animals in captivity and putting domesticated animals in captivity. There are many animals that thrive in captivity like: livestock, dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles, and etc. For example, horses thrive so much more in captivity than they do in the wild. In the wild, they only live up to seven years old, are constantly stressed due to predators and lack of food, and have no access to veterinarians. Horses are pack animals and feel safer with a “leader” and people can fill that role for them. Also, horses do not need miles and miles to migrate, because they only graze when they are turned out in pastures.
Horse owners have access to so many resources to keep their horse healthy like: veterinarians, farriers, sports for exercise, and higher education to learn how to care for these animals. Horses can live up to 50 years in captivity. Unlike zoo animals, horses feel safe and are happy in restrictive environments. Horses and other animals who also thrive in captivity are the animals people should focus on caring for instead of wild animals who do not live well in captivity.
All zoos claim they have the animals’ best interest, but only very few live up to those words. The difference between a good zoo and a bad zoo is their goals. A bad zoo is one that has animals just for the public’s entertainment, while a good zoo works hard to help these animals through breeding programs, educational programs, and rehabs.
People who work at the good zoos hold a high importance for saving the animals on the endangered list. In an interview with Robert Mendyk, Supervisor of Herpetology at the Jacksonville Zoo, he explained how zoos use breeding programs to help restore endangered species. In his department, they are currently breeding the Louisiana pine snake, the Puerto Rican crested toad, and the striped newt to help their population growth.
These breeding programs are set up to help restore these endangered species and then raise them in a way they can release the animal into the wild and the animal will survive. Most of the time, the animals that participate in the breeding programs are not caught from the wild. The animals were no longer able to survive in the wild so the zoo gives them a second chance at life and do their best at keeping the animal happy and healthy.
Good zoos will have rehab centers. Rehabs have helped save so many wild animals and allowed them to continue living in their natural habitats. Rescuers will find ill and/or injured wild animals, give them the medical attention they need, and then release them back into the wild. If they are unable to continue their life alone in the wild, the zoo will give them a home. The Clearwater Aquarium in Clearwater, FL is the home of the famous dolphin Winter and is a good example of a good zoo, or aquarium in this case. Winter is a dolphin rescuers found with a damaged tail due to a crab trap.
The tail ended up being amputated and Winter was no longer able to return to the wild. The aquarium came together and made Winter a prosthetic tail so she could live out the rest of her life at the aquarium. These zoos and aquariums take advantage of these opportunities to educate the public on endangered species, ocean pollution, and basic animal science. If the bad zoos changed their missions from the public’s interest to the animal’s interest, they could be saving so many animals.
These Wild zoo animals will never be domesticated; only somewhat tamed. Domesticating wild animals is a myth most people believe. The truth to domestication is that it takes years of evolution to accomplish true domestication. A biologist, and a professor at the university of California believes there are six restrictions that inhibit animals from being domesticated.
The six restrictions are: diet, growth rate, disposition, reluctance to breed in captivity, social hierarchies, and their tendencies to panic or flee Although, a Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev, proved that the domestication can be sped up through his long term study of silver foxes. The silver foxes in his experiment showed many behavioral, morphological and physiological changes, but this experiment only worked with foxes. Domestication is not possible for all exotic animals.
Foxes are completely different animals compared to lions, tigers, bears, or whales. For example, horses have been domesticated for 5,000 years, but no one has successfully domesticated zebras. Not all animals are made to be domesticated.
Zoos have simply tamed their animals and zoos need to realize that these animals are not happy when they are tamed. Zoo keepers and trainers have tamed their animals with food, whistles, and bull hooks. These animals have only been taught to listen to authority. If they were domesticated, the animals would naturally respect humans and would not have to be bribed with food. In the end, these animals’ natural instincts will always over power any kind of authority.