Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wild Animals in Captivity (Circues, Zoos & Aquariums)

In July of 2009 , Bolivia passed the most comprehensive law banning the use of ALL animals in circuses. Bolivia, however, isn't the first county to adopt such laws. In 2005 Australia adopted a law banning wild animals in circuses. Many other countries have banned the use of wild animals in circuses, including Canada, Brazil, Columbia, Greece, Israel, Singapore, and Sweden. Earlier this month the UK issued a ban of the use of wild animals in circuses. A couple of states and municipalities in the US have banned cruel treatment of animals used in circuses (such as use of a bullhook--an iron stick with an iron hook on the end of it that is used to control elephants), however that doesn't go far enough. Another issue in the use of animals in circuses in the transportation. These large animals are shoved in trains without room to even turn around and forced to go hours without stopping for food, water or fresh air. Wild animals for the most part don't live in captivity as long as they do in the wild. Nor do they reproduce as frequently, if at all. More importantly, their quality of life is greatly diminished by being forced to perform tricks for human entertainment as opposed to roaming miles a day in the wild with their families (many wild animals, especially elephants, are highly social creatures). Due to their inability to act on their instincts, many wild animals suffer health problems. For example, elephants walk approximately 30 miles a day in the wild! Since they are unable to do this in captivity, they quickly get arthritis and other ailments in their legs and backs, not to mention it is extremely difficult to control their weight in captivity.

Although for reasons illogical to me, a federal court recently dismissed a lawsuit against Ringling Brothers for violating the Endangered Species Act. However hidden cameras show the trauma these animals face on a daily basis. Furthermore, Ringling Brothers has been cited and fined numerous times by the United States Department of Agriculture for violating the Animal Welfare Act by its mistreatment of animals, include failure to provide veterinarian care. For more information specifically on Ringling Brothers, please visit

A dilemma now is what should be done with the animals in countries that have banned circuses. For a recent article on this issue , please visit from Yahoo News. Frankly, I believe the owners and the government should play an major role in financing housing for these animals in retirement sanctuaries. Fortunately, however, there are many sanctuaries for abused and retired circus animals that will care for them for life through donations received by supporters. A local example of such a sanctuary is Big Cat Rescue (

The same issues arise in animals in zoos and marine animals kept in aquariums or marine parks. As recently illustrated by the recent death of a trainer by a orca (killer whale) at Sea World, wild animals are not meant to be in captivity. Many of the animals in zoos, circuses and marine aquariums are captured from the wild and often taken away from their mothers when they are only weeks or months old. To see a database of all of the marine animals in captivity and the manner in which they were acquired, please visit,0,5047535.htmlstory.

In 2003, Lowry Park Zoo imported 11 wild juvenile African Elephants from Swaziland under the guise that it was a "rescue" because Swaziland, a tiny country bordering South Africa, at the time didn't have the capacity to care for the orphaned elephants (orphaned because their parents had been murdered by poachers). Despite the fact that MANY reputable elephant sanctuaries in Africa were willing to take the elephants, Lowry Park Zoo received a permit under CITES to import the elephants. It's important to note than when a wild animal is taken from the wild and placed in captivity or a wild animal is born into captivity, it's almost impossible for that animal to be released back into the wild and to be able to survive.

Many people without much knowledge on the subject claim that keeping animals in captivity is "saving the species". However what's the purpose of the species being saved if it's not being saved in its natural habitat? While many animals used in circuses, zoos and aquariums are endangered, taking them from their habitat obviously hinders their ability to reproduce in the wild. There are several sanctuaries in Africa that take orphaned elephants, have experts work closely with the juveniles and adult elephants in their natural habitat, and enable them to eventually be released into the wild. The key to this, however, is that they are in their natural habitat and not kept in confinement.

I wonder every day why humans think that it's acceptable to force wild animals to live in unnatural environments for the purpose of human entertainment? Shouldn't the concern for the animals' well being and the world's interest in biodiversity out way human entertainment?

For more information regarding wild animals being kept in captivity, please visit one of many wonderful websites on the topic,


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