(early warning: Elephants might come up a lot in this article) In truth I agree the best place for any wild animal is definitely in the wild, but in this day and age a lot of the wild places that these animals live in is being decimated by human activity as well as poaching. I understand that many people want to boycott zoos and let the animals be free but then as stated before, what we as a species are doing to natural world is making it more and more difficult for these creatures. However, in this article I wish to share ideas and in formation that looks at things in a more positive light.
One animal species out of countless others for whom I have an immense amount of sympathy for is the Elephant. I love elephants. They are a truly unique species, majestic in appearance and chock full of emotional and cognitive complexities. They have a very profound understanding of the concept of death and can even be very good judges of character when it comes to humans. At a sanctuary for elephants in Tennessee, one of the females had grown a very strong friendship with a stray labrador mixed breed dog with whom they seemed inseparable for a very long time. Recently, however the dog had been killed by a pack of coyotes, but where the the dog's body was found was not the same spot where it had been killed. The elephant had picked her canine friend's body and moved it, possibly seeking to give them a funeral and burial rights.
That is one of the most amazing things about elephants: they have a very profound understanding on the concept of death. It has even been documented in the wild that when elephant herds find one of their own dead in the open, they will mourn for them and even through branches onto the body as an attempt to bury them. They will even mourn and show respect to the skeletal remains of elephants not part of their herds.
More interestingly I've seen articles that tell of elephants who had been attacked and injured by poachers that approached other humans for help. One was I think at a national park in South Africa involving a group of wildlife researchers and medics and another was at a hotel resort in Kenya where elephant herds have passed through the lobby many times because it's along one of their migratory routes (plus the hotel and nearby buildings are highly supportive of Elephant conservation. What's fascinating about these instances is that the elephants went there because they knew and remembered that these people cared about them and could definitely help them. Both situations luckily resulted in happy endings. I know that a lot of zoos have said they will no longer have elephants, and in full honestly, I'm totally on board with that. Elephants after all are a migratory species. They're built to move across great distance in search of food or water, so yeah it's better for the elephants.
Now I'd like to get down further into business. I've heard many debates against keeping animals in captivity, boycotting zoos and circuses like a million times. While I do not attend circuses anymore at my age, especially in knowing the abuse a lot of animals suffer for the sake of entertainment, i still do go to zoos. With zoos of course I acknowledge that they really are not the best place for these animals, but then I also find it nice to see these animals. I've heard many people say that the animals in zoos should be let back into the wild, yet I think they have overlooked that fact that animals born raised in captivity are less likely to survive out in the open like animals born and raised in the wild. In that sense I think the best thing to do for these captive animals is to do better by them. Lately there have been zoos who have caught on to this by expanding the enclosures of the animals and even having them mingle with other species. Some examples include The Dallas Zoo (The exhibit Giants of the Savannah allows elephants to walk around more freely and interest with giraffes, ostriches, zebras, and antelope), The Oakland Zoo, The North Carolina Zoo, and the Zoo Sauvage in St. Felicien in Quebec province among a few others.
The best option hower I'd say is sanctuaries. I've already mentioned the elephant sanctuary and Tennessee, which happens to be over 300 or more acres in size. I have never been there but I have been to a Big Cat sanctuary in North Carolina called the Carolina Tiger rescue which is a non profit, breeding free facility dedicated to providing new home to big cats that were either abused, couldn't be taken care of by their owners, illegally owned, rescued, etc. Places like these are hard to get into for the general public unless you schedule a tour or show support for their efforts. Although zoos make a lot of effort to educate people about these animals, their ecosystems and what we can do to help them, I find it that the sanctuaries and national parks are the next level up.
Now back to the whole Zoo Boycott dilemma. A lot of this has recently been on the rise in the wake of the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving a 17 year old Gorilla named Harambe and a young boy. Honestly I think trying to boycott all zoos now is rather stupid. For me, if you really want to make zoos no longer serve a purpose in society, then I suggest you focus more on supporting global efforts to protect preserve and ultimately the natural world and all it's forms of flora and fauna that are on the brink of extinction. Once all wild animal and plant populations are saved IN THE WILD then zoos and the keeping of exotic animals in captivity will end.
That's the real problem. People get upset over one gorilla being shot at a zoo but are completely overlooking many more gorillas in the wild getting killed by poaching and habitat loss. As Spock has famously said in Star Trek "The Needs of the Many outweigh the needs of the few and the one." Now I do feel bad for the gorilla in Cincinnati, but I think that the the ones in Africa MATTER MORE than a single ape at one zoo in southern Ohio (a zoo which I had visited two years ago and found to be a very well maintained facility).
If you really want to make a difference, here a few easy solutions (some may be unrelated to what I discussed above):
- Recycle more often
- Don't buy things with palm oil as an ingredient (Palm oil is grown in South East asia and a lot of rainforest is cut down to grow it, decimating the homes of Orangutans, Rhinos, Elephants, and Tigers)
- Dont support or engage in big Game hunting unless it's a species that is of low risk/ common status, and that you plan to consume that animal for food (Deer, Caribou, Moose, Wildebeest, etc.).
- Turn off all electrical appliances in the room when you leave and are not using that.
- Donate some money to conservation groups dedicated to preserving nature
- Reduce carbon emissions when traveling to the city by taking public transportation
- choose in your own free time to read more on fascinating information regarding the flora and fauna of the natural world.
- visit national parks
- visit animal sanctuaries
- read up in your own time if and when you can about how much human society needs the natural world in order to survive (both depend each other).
- take shorter showers in order to reduce heat consumption.
- buy more items made from recycled materials.
- buy less foods or beverages with unhealthy preservatives.
There are many more things I could say but I think I'll end it here. Feel free to read and take these ideas into consideration. Thank You.