We are all well aware that capturing wild animals and placing them in captivity is not an enjoyable experience for animals. Having their freedom literally ripped away and being locked into a cage for an indefinite period of time, these animals don’t know how to cope with their newfound feelings of stress, anxiety, and boredom. And rightly so, being in enclosed spaces that can only feign an attempt to recreate a wild habitat is a little bit like if someone picked you up and put you in a dollhouse for the rest of your life.
Unsurprisingly, scientists are beginning to observe the psychological impact that this sort of confinement is having on zoo animals and the results aren’t good. The term “zoochosis” was coined in 1992 by Bill Travers to characterize the obsessive, repetitive behaviors exhibited by animals kept in captivity.
The documentary film “Zoochosis” digs into the underlying causes of these abnormal, seemingly mindless behaviors. The behaviors displayed by zoo animals range from pacing, to rocking and swaying, all the way to aggressive self-directed behavior like self-mutilation, over-grooming, and vomiting.
The documentarians cover the history and development of the study of zoochosis in animals asserting theories on how stress can cause brain dysfunction leading to mindless behaviors that serve as a coping mechanism.
While there is little consensus over what the specific trigger of zoochosis is, the prevailing theme shows that many animals are just not meant to live in captivity. From an evolutionary standpoint, these wild animals never developed so they could sit and watch people stare at them all day.
We like to project our own ideas and beliefs onto animals, especially those in captivity, be them positive or negative. This documentary adds a very important, rather unbiased voice to the zoo debate and I highly recommend watching with an open mind.
Image source: Wikipedia Commons