While many people will pay to enjoy watching animals from around the world in one convenient place, the ones who pay the biggest price are the wild animals themselves,” says Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director.
"Wrenched away from their families and their homes, wild animals are forced to spend a sad, lonely existence in captivity. Ironically, the zoo and aquarium industry often refers to them as “animal ambassadors” – what absolute nonsense,” explains Hickey.
The Humane Society of Canada has funded studies which show that whales and dolphins live shorter, more stressful lives when they are confined to concrete prisons instead of roaming free in the ocean. The stress of capture and long journeys from the wild also claims the lives of other wild animals, and the animal charity says we certainly don’t need any more new zoos, aquaria or captures from the wild.
"For decades, zoos and aquaria have tried to con people into believing that by capturing and displaying intelligent, sensitive wild animals that this will somehow protect them in the wild. If this is true, then their goals have failed in a most spectacular fashion because wild animals and their habitat are facing more clear and present dangers than ever before,” says HSC Executive Director, Michael O’Sullivan.
The Humane Society of Canada believes that the best way to help wild animals and natural ecosystems is by protecting them in their own countries. “For example: shipping panda bears half way around the world to display in a zoo, instead of working to protect them in China can hardly be described as an effective way of making sure that future generations can appreciate these beautiful creatures thriving in their natural habitat,” says O’Sullivan.
And the animal charity puts its money where its mouth is, funding programs to protect bears, seals, whales, dolphins, turtles, tigers and other species at risk. You can find out how to support their Wildlife Guardian Program here.
"In order to attract more people to their prisons, zoo officials like to exhibit cute, baby animals," says O’Sullivan. “Unfortunately, this results in continuous situations of overpopulation. Older, less popular animals find themselves shipped elsewhere where their suffering continues and often increases. Some even find their way into ranches, where they are penned up and shot by hunters. Many zoos and aquaria are also funded by tax dollars and need to be subjected to greater public oversight and be more tightly regulated.”
"During the last few weeks several incidents involving zoos and similar facilities have been in the media including investigations into the deaths of three rare monkeys at a zoo in Chicago. The deaths of elephants, gorillas and a camel at this facility are also being looked into. The death of Howard the bottlenose dolphin who was removed from the West Edmonton Mall approximately a year ago and taken to an aquatic park in Florida was also in the media as was the death of a woman who was killed by bears after she fell into their zoo enclosure."