The Controversy of Wild Animals in Captivity Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1943 Words
Date:  2022-06-22

Over the years, animal protection movements has begun to set up attacks on wild animals in captivity because of different reasons. They see that animals are confined to protect them from extinction, but they fail to maintain the welfare of the animals. On welfare grounds, animals kept in zoos are exposed to endless torture and suffering. While it is crucial to keep animals safe, keeping them in zoos has been subjected to question by rights groups who believe that such enclosures diminish the dignity and liberty of the animals as beings that possess inherent worth. Movements and critics of animals in captivity have pointed out the unpleasant history of enclosures as wildlife menageries meant to entertain the public and reap profits from enclosed animals. This essay is going to argue for the reasons why animals should not be kept in captivity such as the breaking of bonds among animals, loss of freedom, poor development of survival skill, and nonexistent or weak response to predators.

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Firstly, animals in captivity are subjected to overcrowding where large numbers of animals are kept together in a much-reduced space. Animals are densely stocked so that the owner uses little effort and enjoys a rapid and efficient turn-over from the animals kept. This is wrong because animals are increasingly being kept confined indoors, treated more or less like machines, and subjected to immense cruelty. Some zoos cannot provide proper care for animals they keep hence are cramped in small spaces and are given improper diet leading to deterioration of health. Captivity is not a right place for both young and old animals because they need care that human cannot provide. Captivity may result in overpopulation because according to Perrin, Wursig, and Thewissen, captive breeding programs often lead to overpopulation of species thus separate facilities for preparturient females, those with new offspring, and adult males (182).

Secondly, zoos break bonds between animals that have been established since birth because they buy and sell animals. The purpose of animals in captivity are meant to let people see rare animals from far places that most of them could not visit. These animals are either captured lawfully or illegally by hunters who sell them to zoos or the animals in the zoos are sold to other zoos. In the recent past, governments have engaged themselves in animal trade. Governments buy animals that are never found in their habitats or sell wild animals to other countries. For instance, Wemmer and Christen posit that in 2003, the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa and San Diego Wild Animal Park illegally captured 11 free-roaming elephants in Swaziland which were imported to these zoos (250). Most recently, three pregnant elephants and 15 juveniles were traded from Swaziland by Big Game Parks to zoos in the United States. These animals were introduced to Swaziland from National Park in South Africa earlier and were living in thousands of acres in animal parks in Swaziland which is incomparable to the limited space in the zoos. These actions lead to the separation of animals from their natural habitat and herds thus are stressed and bored as they live in captivity.

Another significant drawback for animals living in captivity is that they lose their freedom. Many zookeepers claim that animals enclosed in captivity have led to the improvement of their bonds and leaps because these enclosures are spacious and can allow the animals to roam around. This is by far incomparable to the wild nature where the animals look for food, socialize, mate, and develop their natural skills in hunting and escaping from predators. Furthermore, animals are used to living in family groups or large herds in their habitat but are forced to live in pairs or alone in captivity without the company of the other animals. Humans do this for entertainment while the animal is held in cruelty. Bovenkerk and Keulartz argue that when animals are kept in captivity, they are no longer occupied with the struggle for survival witnessed in the wild thus leading to boredom (18). This is because they do not have to look for food but are tasked with entertaining audience with limited freedom.

Additionally, animals are precious and should be allowed to share the earth like humans instead of caging them. These animals are held captive for all their lives thus may not enjoy their natural environment with their families. When these animals are caged, they lose instincts because they live in cruel climates that they are not accustomed to. For instance, the elephants find it hard to live in captivity in cold countries such as the United States which is different from the tropical climate in Africa. Animals are taken to zoos for breeding programs where there is an artificial environment with the provision of shelter, food, and protection from predators. They are forced to live in unnatural conditions, habitats, climate, and food which cannot be appropriately recreated by the zookeepers. Caged animals live artificially because the healthy gene ordered by natural selection is lost. Also, young ones born in captivity face limited chances of successful introduction to the natural habitat thus animals are better off in the wild than in captivity.

Animals who live in captivity lose or are dispossessed from the development of their survival skills. When young ones are born in the wild, they are under good care of the parents with the provision of food and care each day so that they can grow and maintain a shape that is dictated by instinct. Scott notes that animals learn from other animals through mimicry and imitation where the performance if a unique behavior pattern results in an immediate reward (74). For instance, young cheetahs are taught how to hunt by their mothers, but those in captivity do not learn this because of behavioral failings due to isolation thus lack the skills that are essential in their survival after re-introduction into the natural habitat (Scott 75). Such animals may pick diseases in the zoos or fail to fight for food because of no training from the parents thus die quickly and even endanger the population in the wild.

Furthermore, animals in captivity live in an environment free from predators thus have a nonexistent or poor response to predators. This is because they lack the specific skills that are required for defence or fighting with a predator. Since zoos at times sell these animals, they make encounter other animals and they quickly lose the fight. Such animals do not learn that stimulus is dangerous because they have never seen their species acting fearfully so that they can learn through imitation. With the absence of the mother or other animals, caged animals are not trained or conditioned to respond suitably to a predator or an unpleasant experience thus they may not survive in habitats outside captivity. Kleiman, Thompson and Baer argue that since there is no predation in captivity, animals cannot respond to perceived threats since they are docile, can easily be attacked and killed by their aggressive counterparts in the wild (308).

Animals in captivity live in dirty cages because the keepers do not keep the hygiene and health of the animals. Filthy cages mean that bacteria can grow which makes the animals sick. When the cage is near humans, it will be dirty for them which poses a risk to the spread of diseases. Whenever animals in captivity get sick, diseases spread quickly because of the contact coupled with the fact that they cannot move to get the required nutrients for their health. Birds, for instance, are too crowded in small spaces which leads to stress hence lessens the resistance to diseases. Others suffer broken wings because of the limited space that does not allow them to fly as they do in their natural habitat. Because of this, animals should not be allowed to be kept in captivity. Furthermore, zoon veterinarians may misdiagnose a sick animal leading to the wrong treatment thus endangers the life of an animal. They are injected with drugs and eat processed meat hence leading to diseases and eventual death.

Moreover, zoos tout that they enhance conservation in the wild but at the same time are responsible for breeding almost all species. These zoos claim that they play a crucial role in the species preservation, yet most of the animal species that are kept in captivity are not near extinction. Because of this, people who keep animals in captivity lie to the public that they do good by keeping these animals. In the real sense, they do not provide any meaningful lifetime care for animals but instead regularly trade surplus animals with other zoos. For instance, Demello notes that zoos find sanctuaries for surplus animals while others are sold to brokers and dealers in canned hunting operations, exotic meat farms, private homes, and roadside zoos (103). This demeans the reputation of animals as commodities that are used to promote the motives of imperialists. The engagement of animals in trade is both harmful and unethical as it creates stress in animals because they have to readjust to the new environment every time they are traded, and the moving process may injure them. Some zoos do not follow the right safety procedures and proper techniques when restraining and transporting animals as they are crammed into trailers and are not tranquillized when being captured (Kleiman, Thompson and Baer 45).

Ethical issues have been raised about aquariums and zoos. For instance, Minteer and Collins posit that issues such as commercialization of wildlife, enrichment of the habitat, acquisition of wild animals, zoo-based research, and captive conservation and breeding have been raised (44). These practices have provoked complicated questions on the responsibility of the people who keep the animals in captivity, how these species are being conserved as well as the habitats in the wild. Critics of animals in captivity such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argue that breeding of animals in captivity is geared towards breeding selected species such as animals of value to the masses instead of conservation-based reproduction (Minteer and Collins 44). Captive breeding may lead to the production of surplus animals which are relocated to other lesser facilities where they are exploited and euthanized generally by other zoos generally (Demello 103). Besides, PETA argues against the release of animals born in captivity in that there are inherent difficulties that surround animal reintroduction because of the risks they face in the wild.

Also, death of wild animals in captivity is a regular occurrence especially when the management has no regard for the animals. Since the animals in the zoos act as amusement parks for the public, sometimes people are threatened by enclosed animals which call for lethal intervention by the zoo owners. McPhate, for instance, writes that a gorilla was gunned down when a child accidentally entered its enclosure (n.p). The zoo animal response team could not use any tranquillizer because it takes time to respond and the life of the child was at risk because the gorilla was dragging the child around. Such occurrence reslted in the loss of a species that had live for more than 17 years but could have lived more in the natural habitat if its life was ended by a bullet. Other cases of death of animals in captivity have occurred because humans approach the animals too closely which is perceived as a threat by the enclosed animal or they are allowed to stroll in the zoo unaccompanied, thus they turn rogue and deliberately attack humans. Other animals in captivity that attack and kill humans include lions and elephants, but these could be avoided if they are left in their natural habitat.


Removing animals from their natural habitat and taking them to captivity endangers the rema...

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