When Zoos Go Too Far

It’s been a while since I ranted. At least I think so… admittedly, my brain can be a sieve sometimes. At any rate, I guess it’s about time for another one … and on one of my favorite topics too, one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  Namely, zoos.

When do zoos go too far?  What is the magical line between research, conservation, and exploitation?

There are two types of people; those who love to go to the zoo to see animals they will never otherwise see in real life, and those who despise seeing majestic animals behind bars.  In my experience, there really is no grey in this one; you either love it or hate it.

April the giraffe became a world-wide celebrity a while back.  The world watched daily, heck several times a day, as she waited to give birth to her calf.  Make no mistake, I count myself among that number. Her due date came and went, and still we watched.  Finally, her calf, a male named Tajiri, made his adorable wobbly legged entrance into the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and people watched as April tirelessly cared for her newborn son.  Then, as suddenly as she broke into fame, April was largely forgotten…but not before bringing in a pretty hefty revenue stream to the for-profit theme park where she lived.

April is now pregnant again, and I am pretty sure the zoo will once again cash in on her experience.  But what of the now forgotten Tajiri?  Well, according to this, he is now one year old and he will be loaned out to other zoos for their giraffe breeding programs.

I am enraged at this entire venture.  For one thing, with all the funds April raised for the zoo, you would think she deserves an updated pen.  Instead, they took “her” money, applied it to other areas of the zoo (not necessarily habitats), and now need more money to upgrade the giraffe section.  Only once they have earned the money to do the updates for the giraffe pens, will April be reunited with her calf.  God only knows what they plan to do with her current calf when she is born.  Holy exploitation, Batman!

Most deliberate zoo breeding is strictly for money.  The surplus animals are sold to other zoos, roadside zoos (which are a whole different class from “regular zoos” and a rant best left for another time), fake safari parks, and reports have been made that some unfortunate animals are sold for “canned safari hunts.”

To me, this is all just another example of using animals without regard for them.  April’s pen is badly in need of an update, yet they bred her again?  Just like some rescue facilities that have too many dogs, cats, horses, or whatever they cater to, if a zoo cannot take care of the animals they have they should stop bringing in more animals, and for God’s sake, stop breeding them.

Admittedly, some parks and zoos do keep animals for conservation and research purposes … there are some very good to excellent facilities around the country. Others, however, keep animals in unnatural, inhumane conditions, and then are shocked when these animals are unpredictable, or worse, (*gasp!) act like animals.  It’s not rocket science, folks.  Elephants, whales, lions, heck even penguins were not made to be penned for someone’s amusement.  Personally, I think it has the potential to drive the animals insane. Regardless of your views on zoos, surely, we can all agree that when these animals are placed in zoos, they become our responsibility.

Part of that responsibility is to make sure that conditions for these animals are as good as they can possibly be, not to keep breeding more animals into a bad situation to make simply money for the organization.  It’s funny to me, the people who protest puppy mills, where dogs – both female and male – are kept in horrid conditions and continuously bred for money, are probably the first ones sipping a slushee in front of the giraffe pen at the Animal Adventure Park.

As for April’s newest pregnancy, consider this:  if we follow her latest experience, are we part of the problem?



7 thoughts on “When Zoos Go Too Far

  1. I have to admit I started watching April to see the birth of her calf. Then after the excitement wore away, her pen is SO small! I know that they say it fits all the “legal requirements” but DAMN! What about moral requirements? When you think about how long those legs are and how fast and how long they can travel for.

    • I watched it too. Although this time around, if they have a live feed, I won’t. You make an excellent point. While it’s all perfectly legal, what are the moral and ethical implications? Sentient beings as stock-in-trade with their very lives dependent upon the handlers who see no issue with over-breeding, just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And I agree with you, the inside habitat was terribly small and the outside habitat not much better, in my opinion.

  2. This is the most uncanny timing! Only yesterday I was thinking about giraffes in zoos; how many miles a day would their long legs take them them in the wild and are they even endangered? If not, why the heck are they in every zoo? I’ve never liked ‘tourist attraction zoos’ but even I didn’t realise fairly average wild animals were pimped out repeatedly to many different locations, simply for profit. That must be way stressful for them and their family. It’s so difficult to tell who to support and who not to. I tend to avoid them all. Great post!

    • Giraffes are considered “vulnerable,” and last year, wildlife organizations petitioned to have them considered “endangered.” Their decline (40% over the last 30 years) is directly related to humans … hunting for bushmeat, trophy hunting, and habitat destruction. I share your opinion on “for profit” zoos and theme parks. However, there are some good organizations, especially sanctuaries who take in animals that could not otherwise live in the wild due to injury, living life as someone’s pet until they got “unmanageable,” etc.


  3. Yes, why breed more animals when their pens are not updated? Especially when the revenue stream dried up and was not used for this purpose? I am one of those people who generally dislikes zoos, but goes to the zoo once in a while to get a feel for how the animals are living and whether their environments are being maintained or improved over time.

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