Here at One Green Planet, we have always championed the message that no animal belongs in captivity – because zoos, regardless of whether or not they engage in conservation efforts, are all too often a site of untold suffering, boredom, and distress for the animals who live within them. Over the past few months, we have heard more and more stories illustrating just how ill-advised the idea of holding animals prisoner in tiny enclosures is.
For example, in November, a lion inexplicably killed a lioness he had known for many years in the Dallas Zoo – displaying levels of aggression that have not typically been observed in these animals in the wild. In December, U.K. captive-bred animals were termed “genetic disasters” because of successive generations of inbreeding.
A healthy male giraffe named Marius was killed just two days ago in Copenhagen Zoo because, zoo officials claimed, he was not “genetically valuable.” And Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia has been named “the zoo of death,” because of the appalling treatment meted out to its animals.
In the midst of all these horror stories, a voice of reason has emerged from someone who, although he does not own a conventional zoo, is nonetheless involved in the industry: Damian Aspinall, owner of Port Lympne and Howletts wild animal parks in Kent, England. He has recently told the UK’s Daily Express that he wants the zoo industry to be phased out over the next twenty to thirty years, because, “If you’re a true conservationist and you truly believe in nature, the ultimate goal is you don’t need zoos.”
He says, “If zoos did what was best for the animals, not what’s best for the public, they would be very different places. I absolutely feel sick in my stomach that zoos do animal shows. I come from a point of view where no animal should be here to entertain us … What we’re doing is culturalizing our children to say it’s OK that man is the dominant species. It’s just wrong. We need to de-culturalize the public and phase zoos out.”
In his own wildlife parks, Aspinall breeds endangered species with the ultimate goal of returning them to the wild – and animal shows are strictly forbidden. He also helps to run his late father, John Aspinall’s animal conservation charity, The Aspinall Foundation.
If you, too, would like to see zoos phased out, educate your family and friends on why they should be avoided, and sign this petition urging Indonesia’s president to close down the infamous “zoo of death” that is Surabaya Zoo.
Image Source: Andrew Skudder/Flickr