Why keep animals in captivity?
A heated topic with so many. How can there be anything good about keeping an animal locked in a cage? For keeping an animal away from its natural environment for entertainment? For exploiting these animals for profit? As a little girl, everything was good about it. Going to the zoo as a child was a special occasion. Sure, in school I learned what an elephant looks like, or that monkeys live in trees, but I never actually learned about them. Seeing an animal up close, the size, the behaviour, the smell… fascinated and intrigued more than any book or picture could. And that’s when I wanted to learn about them. Of course with the technology and documentaries now, its easier for children to observe animals. But, how often are they actually being shown it? Its just not the same.
Now as an adult, I can see the good and the bad of an animal in captivity. The bad is obvious. And even more apparent when you see them in horrific states. When they are malnourished, pacing, no space, chained up, beaten, inbred, alone, no enrichment… it upsets me to even think about what I’ve seen. And I could share with you these places, I could write petitions to shut them down, but I won’t. As I don’t know the story, I don’t have the facts. What if they were actually rescued from somewhere worse and on the road to recovering? What if people had boycotted the place and now they lack funding to care for the animals? And the big question – if the sanctuary or zoo shuts down, what will happen to the animals?
The fate of the animals is always justified by so many as “as long as its not here, it will be better” and then the animals are out of the spotlight and usually forgotten. This is a well known fact from experience.
After years of working at the infamous Tiger Temple, I had to listen to so many people condemn me for supporting such a place. How horrible it was that they were chained up and exploited and locked in cages and so on and so on. But they didn’t know what it was really like. And how me working there was actually improving their lives. (For a fact, the animals were not drugged, not beaten, enriched, had very large natural outdoor space during the day and they had each other.)
After my involvement with the tiger temple, and our For Tigers Foundation , I became a firm believer in not exploiting how bad a zoo or sanctuary is. That usually only leads to the animal’s demise. (The 147 tigers that were taken away and forgotten, now only 60 are alive) The best thing to do is try and make it better, educate and improve the animal’s lives while in captivity.
As for volunteering, I then realised well established animal sanctuaries have hundreds of volunteers and better conditions for the animals already. My help and experience is not needed. What is needed is to help educate, promote and enrich the lesser known facilities. Many of the so called ‘sanctuaries’ are just zoos and lack a good volunteer program or none at all in fear of judgement. If you are always hands on it is questionable, but this is what makes people happy and the money flow in. Yes, this is definitely not a good thing, but realistically this opens up volunteers eyes more than just staring at them behind a cage.
As for tourism, I completely disagree with exploiting animals for selfies, I completely disagree with animal farms and overbreeding for profit, for pre canned hunts and so forth, but I do think some zoos and sanctuaries are essential in preserving animals for conservation, research and education. I also believe this should be regulated and limited. Stricter rules should be in place – no breeding or trading should happen unless the sanctuary or zoo meets all standards of INTERNATIONAL codes and be limited to only a few per country. Of course, this is my opinion and my wish, and yes, animals should be free, but with poaching, loss of habitat, climate change etc this leads to extinction and I can’t imagine a world without animals or the opportunity to see them up close.