Monday, July 22, 2013
Animals in captivity
Zoos have always had a big influence on me. Up until today, if we visit a city and there is a zoo, we go. I really believe zoos can have a crucial educational and scientific role: they can for sure change the ways we act towards our environment and have a big influence on kids of all ages. I was one of those kids... who then pursued studies in Biology and Veterinary medicine and who still yearns to do work that matters in that field, because I very very strongly feel we are all connected. I have volunteered at Zoo Education department activities and I have been involved in biodiversity conservation projects.
However, lately I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with the idea of keeping wild animals in captivity. Of course there are zoos and zoos. And if it is done properly, if the animals are stimulated, well kept, taken care of, I do think the role they can have in changing minds is worth taking the animals away from nature. This task of zoos seems particularly needed for us humans who seem not to respect anything around us. I guess it also depends of the species: some smaller species are easier to keep in an environment that closely resembles their own. But for highly social and highly intelligent animals that also depend on culture, that learn from growing up in groups with older peers, it just seems that it's almost impossible to stimulate them properly, to have them live a dignified life in captivity, to recreate their natural lives.
Perhaps we should start thinking of other ways to educate and instill this curiosity from early ages? Nature walks, visits to national parks, documentaries, interactive classes? (I am not convinced on ecotourism either, I basically distrust anything that's done for profit, and regardless of good intentions, going over and over and over to a protected place can alter the ecosystems it is supposed to protect. But I guess it depends on how it's done). How do you feel about this?