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The lions in Dallas Zoo lived together peacefully for years, until one unnamed male lion attacked one of the females, Johari. According to CBS, “Zoo officials say Johari’s cause of death was suffocation. She had been a part of the exhibit since its grand opening in 2010.”

The event is tragic, and the likelihood of such an occurrence in the wild is very rare. International Business Times states that, “Lions are the only social felines. While aggressive animals, they rarely attack animals of their own pride.”

This story comes in the wake of many other captive animal incidents. Deaths at SeaWorld and the recent fatal accident of a keeper in a Missouri zoo serve as sad examples of humans interacting with captive wild animals. The ideal function of a zoo would be to promote conservation of animals and release them back into the wild. However, the idea of zoos as entertainment rather than education or preservation is even engrained in our language. CBS refers to the animal’s enclosure as an “exhibit,” which is defined as a work of art. Animals in zoos are held captive, used for entertainment under the guise of education.

BBC news reports that the zoo is keeping the male lions separate from the females during the investigation, and has no plans to put down the offending lion. They are asking those who witnessed the attack to speak to the zoo since no zookeepers were around to witness the attack.

We can only hope that someday soon the U.S. can take a page out of Costa Rica’s book and shut down zoos nationwide.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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One comment on “The Price of Captivity: Lion Kills Lioness at Dallas Zoo”

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4 Years Ago

This article seems very opinionated and non-objective. Having worked in two different accredited zoos, both with animals and in education, I'd like to offer a different perspective (possibly still opinionated and non-objective). First of all, it's not unheard of for lions to kill each other. Though less common for males to kill adult females, it is very common for males to kill cubs and other males in the wild. The assertion from the International Business Times that the article cites that lions rarely kill pride members is inaccurate considering the amount of infanticide that actually happens within lion prides. Secondly, sometimes tragic events and accidents happen. Sometimes people die in car accidents but we still drive cars - it becomes very problematic to make blanket assertions based off of isolated incidents simply because they align with a personal moral agenda. Third, society does tend to see zoos as entertainment rather than education....and nobody is trying harder to change that than zoos. As somebody who works in zoo education, I can attest to the fact that we cringe when guests ask if our animals do tricks or complain that the animals are always asleep and never do anything "interesting." It's a huge task to change centuries of learned attitudes towards nature and zoos need all the help they can get - it is not helpful when "animal activists" dole out misinformation rather than help us to educate. Four, yes, it is standard to call enclosures "exhibits." We prefer this to "cage" (which we still hear guests refer to all the time, even though we have long since moved away from the cages of zoos past). Perhaps this terminology should be rethought though - as someone with a science background, it is quite common for us to refer to exhibits in many different contexts as teaching tools, but that is clearly not how everyone sees it. Five, zoos have done amazing things and often, the task of "conserving" animals is oversimplified into a "just breed them and release them into the wild" argument. In some cases, such as with Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, there is less and less safe "wild" to release them into every day (they could be extinct in the wild in as little as 15 years) and all we can realistically do is keep a healthy captive population alive in hopes that things might change one day. In other cases, zoos actually have been responsible for bringing animals back from the brink of extinction such as with the Arabian oryx, or even from supposed extinction (the black footed ferret). The animals that aren’t endangered or part of a conservation program still serve as an incredible learning opportunity (I am one of the people who makes sure that opportunity is not lost on zoo visitors) to a public that is increasingly detached from the natural world and, at the same time, is making it more difficult for every other species to exist at an unprecedented rate. Finally, believe me that nobody will be sadder about the death of lion in question than the keepers who worked closely with her. To them, it was losing a part of their family. I hope that this didn’t come off too combative – I respect and am glad that people have empathy for animals, but sometimes it gets misdirected and ends up hurting what should be our common goal and it is very frustrating.


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