Why was the decision made that an animal, every single time, has to sacrifice its life in order to preserve a human?
If you’ve been reading or watching the news these last couple of weeks, you’ll know where I’m heading with this. First up – a few weeks ago – a man, who decided that he wanted to end his own life, took off most of his clothes, climbed a security fence, and jumped into a lion enclosure at Santiago zoo in Chile. The zookeepers ended up shooting two lions dead. The man was taken to hospital in a serious condition.
Then, secondly, only a few days ago, a small child managed to get into into the enclosure of a 180kg gorilla at Cincinnati zoo in America. There have been angry discussions as to whether or not the gorilla was protecting or threatening the child. There have been angry discussions as to whether the child’s mother, the child, the gorilla, or the zookeepers are to blame. None of this, of course, matters to the gorilla: he was shot dead.
And then the third story: that of Zuri the giraffe making her way, via road, from Auckland to her new home at Wellington zoo. On paper, it’s got all the right bits that make up a heart-warming animal story: the long trip, the comedy trying to get her tall truck under low bridges, feeding her with bales of hay, Zuri grabbing a bite as she passes trees…
But all of this disguises the fact that Zuri is a giraffe and giraffes don’t belong in New Zealand. Harambe was a proud gorilla. He didn’t belong in the United States. Two lions didn’t deserve to be in a cage in Santiago zoo – let alone getting shot for doing what they naturally are designed to do, which is eat food that comes near them.
Zoos – under some misguided notion of conservation – are to blame for these deaths. Zoos like to present themselves as somewhere safe, secure, unthreatening – the advertising shows them as fun, exciting places to visit. But they are not, it’s like prison for animals. And it’s the fault of the humans who got near the animals. For people who visit zoos are just as much to blame as it is the fault of the zoos.
Animals are simply not meant for zoos. Just because a gorilla, a lion, a giraffe – and all the rest – are stuck behind bars in Wellington, Santiago or Cincinnati, it doesn’t suddenly stop them from being animals. We are not surprised when a shark or crocodile attacks a human in the wild; why are we so surprised when it happens in a zoo?
More importantly, who said that humans are more important than animals? If a human is foolish enough to deliberately put him or herself where these animals are, then why interfere? After all, the animals are only doing what they do naturally.
The best way to stop it happening? Stop having zoos. Leave animals to live in the wild.
Article written by Ben Egerton
This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:
Critical Thinking Challenges:
- Are zoos like prisons for animals?
- If an animal and a human are threatening each other (or feeling threatened by each other), why does the human get to live and the animal have to die?
- Is there any reason for taking animals out of their natural habitats and placing them in zoos?
- How are visitors to zoos just as much to blame as zoos themselves?
- How can animals be better protected in the wild?
- Find a list of the animals that are kept at Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton or any of the other zoos or wildlife parks in New Zealand. Find these places on a map and work out how far they’ve travelled. How do zoos try and recreate their natural habits? What do they do to make the animals as comfortable as they can?
- Research different animal charities. How does what they do support animals better than zoos might?
- Choose one of the three animals mentioned in the article – lion, gorilla, giraffe – and find out more about them. Put all your findings on a poster, brochure or information sheet. How can all this information be used to keep those animals safer in their natural habitats?
Have Your Say:
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