There is a lot that could be said about the lives of animals in captivity, and how they differ from those of their wild counterparts. Entire treatises could be written on the lack of adequate exercise, social interaction, and physical and mental stimulation these animals experience. According to the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama, around 40 percent of captive elephants are obese because of the sedentary lifestyles that have been forced upon them. However, it has been said that a picture paints a thousand words – and the photograph below, posted to Instagram by mohsinkazmitakespictures, makes it clear just how stifling the experience of a captive animal truly is.
The only “trees” this Spider Monkey and her child will ever be able to climb are the wire fences of her enclosure.
The natural habitat of spider monkeys – the evergreen forests of Central and South America – have been systematically destroyed in recent years to make way for commercial interests. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says, “Because they prefer mature tropical forests and seldom venture into disturbed habitats, these monkeys are especially vulnerable to the effects of forest fragmentation.” The species is currently classified as endangered, and sadly, the only “trees” that many of these monkeys can now climb are manmade fences.
Mohsinkazmitakespictures said in the caption to this photo, “While (zoos) are designed to educate people about wildlife that people rarely come in contact with, sometimes they end up making people numb to the idea that these animals actually belong in the wild. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this juvenile Spider Monkey who was born in captivity and will most likely stay there.”
Conservation Can Only Happen in a Natural Environment
Sadly, zoos rarely live up to their supposed “educational” function. A paper published in the Conservation Biology journal in 2014 found that after a series of visits to the London Zoo, 62 percent out of 2,800 children surveyed showed no indication of having learned new facts about animal or environmental conservation. This study seems to be indicative of a wider trend among zoo “education” programs: namely, that they seldom achieve their objectives, and in many cases, even produce a “negative learning outcome,” whereby children feel less inclined to help animals and the planet after visiting a zoo. A 2010 UK government-commissioned report stated that, “despite zoos promoting education programs, there was little evidence of educational impact by the industry.”
Another common defense of zoos – i.e., that they assist in conservation efforts through captive breeding programs – does not stand up to close scrutiny either. Animals that have been born and raised in captivity are typically unfit for release in the wild, as their natural instincts to search for a mate, find food and water, defend their territory, and travel great distances are diminished and repressed in a zoo environment. Benjamin Beck, former associate director of biological programs at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., said that in the last century “only 16 of 145 reintroduction programs worldwide ever actually restored any animal populations to the wild. Of those most were carried out by government agencies, not zoos.” In addition, even those captive-bred animals who are introduced back into the wild tend to avoid mating with their wild counterparts.
Watching an animal in a zoo enclosure is the last place that anyone can expect to witness them engaging in natural behaviors. They are far more likely to see them exhibiting signs of zoochosis: a term coined to describe the abnormal, repetitive actions often performed by captive animals. These can include excessive head-wobbling, swaying on the spot, self-harm, and increased aggression toward zookeepers and cage- or tank-mates. Depression is also a common problem, and has even led zoos and marine parks to administer anti-psychotic medication to their animals.
How You Can Help
Just like the monkey and her baby in the above picture, zoo and circus animals will never be allowed to experience an environment that truly meets all of their needs. The true solution to the threat of species extinction is not to confine endangered animals to an unnatural enclosure, but to save their natural homes. To find out how you can help save the Amazon rainforest and protect the future of these monkeys, as well as many others, check out some of the posts below:
- Want to Save the World? Consider These Facts When You Eat
- Time to Get Real and Ditch That Hamburger, Because Cows Don’t Belong in the Rainforest
- Skip the Circus, Marine Park and Zoo: Here are 10 Humane Ways to Interact With Wildlife
- 5 Ways to Enjoy Wild Animals Without the Walls of Captivity
- 5 Reasons You Should Never Visit a Theme Park That Keeps Wild Animals
- Wild Animal ‘Encounter’ Experiences: Cruel to Animals, a Danger to People
Image Source: mohsinkazmitakespictures/Instagram