The Captive Issue: Perhaps We’re Both Right

boy and peacockI’ve been itching to write this piece for a long while but felt too strongly about it and needed to think it though.  There have always been the people who love zoos and aquariums and feel they are necessary and that they provide some good.  Then there is the other side, the advocates for keeping animals wild, out of zoos and not captive.  With more talk of “bad” zoo practices and certain places getting rid of zoos all together I finally decided to put pen to paper and tell my side and hopefully an open perspective on the captive issue and maybe people will realize perhaps we’re both right.

As I’m sure it’s obvious from my blog title Lady of the Zoos that I’ve always been a big supporter of zoos.  As a little girl growing up in a city like Toronto I wasn’t fortunate to see a lot of wild animals, especially nothing spectacular like lions and tigers in my back yard.  My visits to the Toronto Zoo growing up have always been an amazing experience and helped put me on the path to love, care for and want to help the awe-inspiring animals that this world has to offer.  Like many people who live in cities, visiting a zoo or aquarium is the only link they have with the many exotic animals that they’ll probably never get to see in the wild.  Most people will never have the opportunity to go on an African safari and see lions, elephants and leopards, or explore the rainforests of South America to see spider monkeys, toucans and poison dart frogs.  So zoos are the only place for most people to see these animals, experience them and it’s this link that helps us learn about the amazing animals around the world and with learning about them and seeing these animals in person, allows us to start to care about these animals.  And it is only when we care, when we truly care and start to understand them that we will then want to do something, no matter how small, to save these precious creatures.  Whether its awareness in animal trafficking in their pelts or live for the pet trade, or choosing to eat only sustainably caught seafood, or to choose products without palm oil – all of these issues are showcased in zoos at respective animal exhibits that correspond to their habitat loss and their causes of threat with extinction.

Zoos and aquariums around the world provide pleasure to many families, visitors and animal lovers alike, they help their wild animal counterparts with millions of dollars in funds to help protect them through purchase of more land, rehabilitation, introducing animals into the wild, and educating locals about the plight of their local species.

Then there is the other side of the fence, those who think animals in captivity is barbaric and that they shouldn’t be put behind glass for our amusement.  They believe animals should be where they belong, in the wild – free to do as they please and roam far and wide.

Panamanian golden frog

Panamanian golden frog

The sad truth is their habitats are diminishing, so they can’t roam free – far and wide – without running into humans and in turn trouble.  Many zoos have become an ark for species, some that were or are extinct in the wild, are thriving in zoos and some like the black-footed ferrets born at the Toronto Zoo are being released into the wild to boost the population.  The black-footed ferret and other species probably would have become extinct if it weren’t for zoos.  We as humans are the cause for many of the problems that animals in the wild face and with the help of zoos we can help change that.

I’m not trying to say all zoos are grand, there are some not so good ones – like anything else – but the good ones serve a purpose and do provide hope.  Do I believe all animals should be wild and in their natural habitat, I wish that could be true, but it’s not the world we live in.  I’m not writing this to change any ones opinions, I merely want to start a discussion and get people to think and be open to all perspectives.

When it comes to The Captive Issue, to those of us who believe in zoos and to those who want all animals wild and free, stop and think – Perhaps We’re Both Right.


5 thoughts on “The Captive Issue: Perhaps We’re Both Right

  1. Indeed… sadly this is correct, and as we usually concentrate on what is negative rather than what is positive, negative connotations may be what people will remember mostly. I have seen my share of poorly maintained enclosures and also some areas that are really as close as possible to the natural biome of origin… I have spent 15 years on a remote island where hunting and logging where not allowed, and seeing animals in their natural ecosystem is an experience that no zoo will ever come close too. Nice blog.

  2. I so agree with you…very mixed feelings about animals being in zoos…so heartbreaking to see gorgeous creatures pacing back and forth in inadequate “homes” and then we read about abuse…but, yes those that do good really do good, as do preserves…
    I, too, am so saddened that the “natural order of things” has been so disrupted and so many have been lost or cannot survive in their native habitat…
    I’m also frustrated and angered by how domestic animals are treated…
    Thank you for bringing out this paradox…especially for those who love animals as you clearly do!

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