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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:

  1. Are zoos like prisons for animals?
  1. 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?
  1. Is there any reason for taking animals out of their natural habitats and placing them in zoos?
  1. How are visitors to zoos just as much to blame as zoos themselves?
  1. How can animals be better protected in the wild?

Practical Tasks:

  1. 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?
  1. Research different animal charities. How does what they do support animals better than zoos might?
  1. 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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31 Responses

  1. I totally agree with the author also. Yes sometimes it’s fun to go to the zoo but think about the animals that are in the cages at the zoo. Because of us the animals have to be shot dead. THAT’S JUST CRUEL.

  2. Animals actually usually live longer in zoos because they are not hunted by other animals or HUMANS, which is good if they are endangered. What about more nature reserves, where you drive around and safely see animals that aren’t being hunted for meat, skin or tusks. ya!
    and the animals lived safer and happily ever after…
    THE END!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I agree with the author! However, leaving an animal out in the wild is dangerous for the animal. If you read about the Killing of Cecil the Lion then tops to you! That’s why people keep animals from hunters!

  4. animals you are doing natural stuff so jail for life.That is what it is like for them


  6. I think we should stop supporting zoos by visiting them or buying things from them. It’s like supporting a jail – except this one is for animals! Also, those animals did not deserve to be killed because us people were not responsible enough. Say no to zoos!

  7. I think zoos should improve the cages so that people won’t get hurt. zoos should always be around forever. go giraffes! zoos rule!

  8. i agree animals are the more important things in life than humans we are animals but they think they can do what they want because they have lots of abilities

  9. just put them in a protected where they are in the sort of wild but if harm comes to them by humans the humans will be in trouble

  10. Animals don’t deserve to be treated like this is agree with author of this article good job on him for sticking up for the animals and showing that they deserve better lives than spending their whole lives in a cage being feed rather than catching their own food in the wild and interacting with nature stick with Ben !!!!!

  11. Conservation parks are fine… not zoos like these! Why kill them anyway? Just send them to sleep for an hour or two…

  12. I love animals so much they are amazing and precious creatures of nature. I love animals so much I would do anything to help or save them from extinction. Animals are amazing.

  13. why do they have to shoot them why don’t they just put them to sleep .THINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. zoos r cruel though putting animals in cages. At least they feed them and I think they should keep them out in the wild but if they r injured or close to extinct then why not take them to the zoo. Zoo keepers need to think for once.

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