Guess post by Syed Rizvi, Founder/President of Engineers and Scientists for Animal Rights
A recent editorial on the topic of zoos and conservation in Dawn of November 17 is an admirable step toward bringing the animal issue to the lime light, since without such publications the issue can never reach public eyes and be a subject of debate. However, a comment in the editorial that zoos play an important role in the conservation of endangered species is a misleading one. The truth is that the primary motives of zoos are cheap entertainment at the cost of animal exploitation.
Zoos often operate under the guise of conservation, and they notoriously participate in the breeding of exotic animals. Zoos know that nothing brings paying customers through their gates faster than newborn animals. But such breeding programs inevitably result in a surplus of less-crowd-pleasing adult animals. So zoos routinely trade, lend, sell, barter and warehouse adult animals they no longer want. Moreover, many of the species being bred aren’t even endangered or threatened. And the captive-bred species that do face extinction in the wild — including elephants, polar bears, gorillas, tigers, chimpanzees and pandas — will never be released back into their natural environments to bolster dwindling populations because they are denied learned survival skill and in some cases they pickup diseases in captivity that could threaten wild populations. Neither the practice of keeping animals in cages has a positive effect on species preservation.
Zoos do nothing to foster respect for animals in the wild. They are still hunted, poached, encroached upon, culled and captured for display.
Instead of providing lifetime care, zoos shuffle their surplus animals around like checkers on a board — even though many species, including elephants and primates, form deep and lasting bonds that are critical to the animals’ long-term health and happiness. Removing them from established social groups and forcing them to adjust repeatedly to new routines, different caretakers and unfamiliar cage-mates is disruptive and traumatic.
Breeding animals and keeping them in cramped cages causes untold suffering. Last year at the Lahore Zoo, Romeo, a male chimpanzee at the Lahore Zoo attacked his mate, Juliet, and their baby, Pinky. Pinky was born at the zoo while her parents were wild-caught. The zoo’s director admitted that Romeo may have been frightened by the crowd and that the chimp’s cage was “very small.”
A 2006 investigation into the Lahore Zoo found that 13 animals—including some endangered species–had died in one year. The zoo has no emergency treatment or X-ray facilities available. Director Yousaf Pal stated,
life and death are in the hands of the Almighty.
After a devastating earthquake hit Pakistan in December 2005, residents were allowed to free animals from their cages at the Jalalabad Zoo and move into the empty cages. The fate of those animals remains unknown.
Syed Rizvi can be contacted at ESAR01@aol.com
Resources to the zoo debate: