In the society, there is a twofold attitude towards maintenance of animals in a zoo. At the time when some people enjoy the opportunity to see exotic animals and birds in the center of a megalopolis, others argue against keeping animals in captivity and showing them to the public. However, in modern times, there is a terrible practice around the world, where exotic animals are not only kept in zoos, but also traded as pets. The current situation of captive animals is terrible – for animals, environment and people. The best place for the protection of wildlife is natural habitat and no artificial environment can compare with natural.
Habitat of animals in zoos is extremely different from the one, in which their wild relatives live. Living conditions in nature are more variable and diverse than in captivity, where animals do not have to look for food, hunt and escape from enemies. At first glance, satisfied and carefree life of the inhabitants of the zoo conceals problems and underlying causes of psychological discomfort. Opponents of zoos claim that staying in captivity animals often suffer mentally and physically. Even the best made environment cannot be compared with freedom, diversity and space that animals receive in their natural environment. “In general, animal rights advocates oppose zoos because of the belief that any form of human use of animals is intrinsically wrong, especially if it results in any harm whatsoever”. Keeping animals in captivity leads to mental illnesses because of the constant stay in a stressful situation. Some zoos train animals. For example, in sea parks, dolphins are forced to perform various tricks entertaining public. In zoos, most of animals are kept with a single purpose – to entertain people.
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A large number of animals that live in the park of marine fauna and flora as well as zoos suffer from diseases that are related to stress, disturbance of pregnancy and childbirth, increased aggression and self-mutilation. Zoo-keepers often feed animals with anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs in order to hide diseases caused by retention in an artificial environment. Animals used by people for entertainment also exhibit certain stereotyped behavior presented in the form of repetitive movements, which are related to injury, autism or schizophrenia. People can notice that the inhabitants of the cages have similar behavior – nervous tics, wiggle, walking on one place, as well as other manifestations. Similar behavior can be seen in animals in captivity. It is associated with signs of injury, suffering or severe living conditions. In many cases, stereotyped behavior is caused by abnormal growth of cells of the brain called dendrites, which grow in the part responsible for the search activity. It causes the lack of natural simulation activity and a single content. These signs indicate that animals in captivity are constantly in a state of disorder.
Nowadays, many animal advocates are extremely concerned about the proliferation of marine parks worldwide. Mortality and behavioral abnormalities of dolphins in captivity show that the lack of incentives causes stress in them. Sluggish swimming in a circle is one of the signs that animals suffer from psychological distress and boredom. Space is another important issue. As a rule, the pools are incredibly small for these large and mobile animals that in the wild can float about 60 miles a day. Shallow water of the pool exposes the delicate skin of dolphins to the sunlight causing painful burns. Coaches denying dolphins food force them to perform multiple and unnatural tricks for public consumption. Hunger makes dolphins ignore their most basic natural instincts.
The welfare of many animals in zoos is strongly violated. Instead of walking several kilometers a day searching for food, playing, hunting and communicating with congeners, animals are forced to stay in cramped and empty cages. The cages are often incorrectly or insufficiently equipped and do not meet the animals’ needs. For example, some animals need the pools with water and mud, trees to climb and possibilities to hide. “However, some zoos have what they call naturalistic exhibits and wildlife parks provide animals with areas to roam around that simulate their natural habitats”. However, most of the zoos still do not have even the minimum conditions for animals. The cages are located very close to each other and, contrary to their nature, animals are forced to endure smell, sounds and the presence of their natural enemies or victims. “Captive facilities need to optimize conditions for the animals by allowing them to feel secure, providing high quality food, allowing them to undertake a large range of natural solitary and social behaviors”.
Resettlement of animals is often performed without taking into account their social structure. Animals requiring partners are kept separately and on the other hand, single are forced to tolerate the presence of neighbors. More sensitive animals really try to escape. In a panic, they rush to the bars of the cage. Less sensitive animals have long depression without giving any outward signs. Hiding panic, they slowly die as a result of mental overexertion. Almost no one pays attention to the animals’ need for rest. For a wild animal being constantly in front of visitors and feel their views and proximity is a constant torture. Stress resistance of animals in captivity depends on their territoriality. Territorial species cannot tolerate the constant flow of people.
Animals often suffer from the fact that zoologists conduct experiments for studies. Zoo owners also sell or lend animals to other zoos, for example for reproduction. Taking into account that the choice of a partner is crucial for any kind of animal, it becomes clear that the success of breeding is just a manipulation of the animal instincts, which leads to the birth of offspring. However, newborns also have many problems. On the one hand, they have little chance to survive. On the other hand, especially when it comes to large, highly developed animals, females often reject their posterity or try to kill them. There are cases of such behavior in elephants and monkeys.
Totally depended on people, animals cannot get the food they need. Many of them have to get used to what people can provide them. In the best case, it is a type and amount of food calculated scientifically. Zoo keepers do not take into account individual needs of the animals, not to mention the fact that the process of food search is a necessary part of their lives that can take up to 15 hours a day for some species. “Certain behaviors important for survival in nature lose much of their adaptive significance in captivity”.
Abilities of animal behavior are based on solving problems that occur in the wild. However, in zoos, these problems are not always relevant. Instead, there are other problems that animals do not have in the natural environment. For example, they suffer from monotony of life in captivity. If wild animals choose preferred conditions for them and avoid unpleasant situations, animals in captivity lack this opportunity. Partially, these problems can be solved by simulating natural environment in aviaries creating complex terrain, places for viewing and comfortable shelters. It will allow keeping animals in more comfortable conditions, even in a small area. It is more difficult to provide animals with other attributes of wild life – freedom of choice and variability. In some zoos, there are professionals whose work is sometimes similar to the work of the therapist. They help inhabitants of the zoo. Every day they perform procedures which involve feeding animals and cleaning cages. They use methods of complication of pets’ life in the zoo. For example, people do not give food in bowls, but shove it in the cracks in the aviary so that animals can independently search for food, just like in nature.
However, there are people that affirm that zoos can be of benefit for both people and animals. One of the main goals of zoos is to instill love for animals into people. When parents with children come to the zoo, they get acquainted with the habits and life of wild animals. It inspires people to protect nature and animals. Another function of zoos is a breeding program for endangered animals. In the natural habitat, it is difficult for some animals to find mates. For endangered species, poaching and predators can be a great threat. Therefore, zoos can be a good place for these animals to be saved. Experts affirm that breeding programs provide safeguard. Quite often, zoo-bred animals are released to the natural environment with the aim to increase genetic diversity. “There are many examples of where animals from a captive population have been successfully restored to the wild”.
However, opponents of zoos have other opinion in this respect. They assert that most of captive breeding programs do not set animals free into the natural environment. These animals are often sold to other zoos, circus and private ownership, where people pay money to hunt wild animals.
Many people may say that mankind has many problems that are more serious than captive animals. However, some believe that if people pay attention to ill-treatment and use of animals, people will be able to see a number of deeper problems that are associated with each other. Nowadays, many people believe that keeping animals in captivity is wrong.