Saturday, March 26, 2011

No polar bears in zoos or maybe No more Zoos

Why are Polar Bears in zoos? The facts laid out in Canadian site Zoo Check's paper A Case Against Polar Bears in Captivity paper are researched and logical:

"Polar bears are among the most controversial animals kept in zoos. As the widest ranging terrestrial mammal on earth, polar bears are uniquely adapted to survive in vast territories and cold weather conditions. Their natural environments and lifestyles cannot be replicated in even the best captive situations.

Most polar bear exhibits are currently exhibited in antiquated, artificial and unsuccessful exhibits. But even the newest, most modern exhibits are not much better. There have been no polar bear enclosure constructed yet that satisfy the full range of biological and behavioural polar bear needs.

The keeping of polar bears in zoos is being challenged around the world. While they may still be popular display animals, they are among the worst candiates for captivity."

I read this past week Knut the polar bear in Berlin died. He was 4 years old and had been hand raised after his mother rejected him. Four years old, he died in his enclosure in front of people after having some type of seizures. I saw a video of it and it was heart breaking. Watching an animal die is horrible. His mother had rejected him at birth. Was she smarter than her captors and know something was physically wrong with him? If he was defective, she would have left him to die in the wild. That's just nature.

The Berlin zoo says "a preliminary necropsy conducted Monday revealed "significant changes to the brain, which could be seen as the reason for the sudden death of the polar bear".

Survival of the fittest works by natural selection. Only the best survive to perpetuate the evolution of species in nature. The theory of evolution is even accepted by Christians these days as compatible with theories of creation. (ok I digress - that is a whole other topic!)

Anyway, I agree with the paper and don't think Polar Bears should be held in zoos anywhere. Would this mean people would stop caring or loving Polar Bears? No. Of course not. They are also doing just fine right now with reports their numbers are increasing in the wild, even booming. From NCPA, "What seems clear is that polar bears have survived for thousands of years, including both colder and warmer periods. There may be threats to the future survival of the polar bear, but global warming is not primary among them."

People who care about bears or any animals generally care about all animals to a degree. There are many, many animals I've never seen but I still care about their well being and their survival on the planet. Humans are supposed to take care of the planet including animals, right? Most parents and schools teach children to care about animals, right?

Regardless of all this caring going on world wide, with advances in technology and cameras, here's a question: why are there zoos at all? I found an interesting argument in favor of closing zoos at ISAR online's blog. ISAR is the International Society for Animal Rights. They argue:

"There are many arguments against the existence of zoos, and there are many articles and some books that make a convincing case for their closure. (Among the latter is Peter Batten’s Living Trophies.) Some, but by no means all, of those arguments are:

· Zoo animals are often acquired from dealers who, in turn, have obtained them by brutal means.
· They are transported to their destinations, often over great distances, in a primitive manner with little, if any, regard to what kind of treatment their species requires.

· They are subject to attacks by vandals, and even psychopaths.

· They are often held in sterile cells or cages, suffering the debilitating effects of solitary confinement.

· They receive inadequate nutrition, eating unpalatable synthetic food, and inadequate medical care, suffering illness and disease, because of zoos’ financial constraints and zookeepers’ indifference.

· They are traded like baseball cards among zoos and other animal exhibitors, to satisfy perceived display needs.

· They are cross-bred, creating animals called “tigons” or “ligers,” that are, Frankenstein-like, neither tigers or lions.

· They are denied the life dictated by their genes and nature.

These are but a few of the reasons zoos should cease to exist, and each of them have been elaborated at great length elsewhere.
" Good points raised... read the rest here.

Need a visual? View Images of Captivity: "The zoo industry makes grandiose claims about educaton and conservation, but those claims have little basis in fact. They are false. They are used to sanitize an industry that exploits animals for entertainment.

"The relationship between zoos and animals is one-sided. The humans involved in zoos benefit, but the animals don't."

If you really care about wild animals, might be time to rethink having zoos at all...
New Zealand has been contemplating importing new elephants since 1 of 2 there died. While Auckland Zoo is pretty nice, for a zoo, I think I'm going to have to be in the "no" camp on that issue now.
RIP Knut


  1. Lisa,

    Good post. As an ardent animal lover I have never understood why we keep animals in zoos other than endangered ones.

    I for one prefer to admire critters in the great outdoors on their terms.

    I think its ridiculous to have polar bears or any northern animal in temperate climates and expect them to thrive. The same can be said about tropical animals housed in northern zoos.

    All though much can be learned from studying animals the question remains: are we actually helping them or are we profiting from them?

  2. I don't see much benefit to animals in zoos any more where I used to before... but perhaps I had just bought into the lie which zoos promote of helping save endangered species.

    Wouldn't time and money be better spent with programs in countries where there are endangered animals (eg Gorillas or Tigers) to change the culture of the people who live there so they STOP killing these animals for profit?

    How does a zoo get a tiger or gorilla anyway? From a poacher? I'm sure that 'never' happens, right?

    You are spot on, Hardnox, about climates being hard on animals. Lincoln Park in freezing Chicago had 3 elphants a few years back... they all died. When that all happened (I was still living there at the time), I thought why the H3LL were elephants at that tiny, freezing zoo anyway?! OOOOOhhhh to draw more PEOPLE to the zoo to make MORE MONEY!

    ... yep