A year or so ago, I wanted to vomit when I heard of a zoo abroad that killed a perfectly healthy giraffe because it was too inbred and they didn't want him to mate with anyone. Apparently, he was rendered useless because he couldn't be used to procreate. So they chopped him up to bits in front of a crowd and called it research. Oh, and then fed his body to lions.
More recently, a guy threw himself into a lion's cage as an epic suicide attempt. Rather than letting a man with a suicide note in his back pocket die as he wished, they killed the lions who probably were hoping to still be alive.
And now there's Harambe, a gorilla who was trying to protect a fallen four-year-old from the mass of hysteria after he falls into the enclosure. In order to protect the child, they shoot the non-aggressive-looking gorilla. But I'm not even here to weigh whether or not they did the right thing. That's not really even the issue.
I've had a bit of an issue with keeping wild animals in captivity since Blackfish, but these senseless killings are only making me more firmly believe that we need to free animals from their prisons in zoos.
Last year, I went to the Richmond Metro Zoo and had a good enough time. It's great seeing animals up close, and I got to feed giraffes (my favorite animal). But as I was standing in front of the snow leopards, reading their sign about how far they could jump, I had a sinking feeling. The little sign told me they could jump over 50 feet in one leap, yet their enclosure reasonably doesn't give them enough space to really do that. If an animal can jump that far in one take, you'd reasonably believe they'd need a multiple of that number, which they didn't.
I personally love going to see the animals up close. They're beautiful. It's awe-inspiring. But it's also wildly selfish.
Humans are selfish. Zoos are selfish.
Just because we like looking at them doesn't mean we have a right to contain them just so we have easy access to see them. Sure, we learn about them when they're in captivity, but, really think about it: if a bear came to your house overnight and took you out of your life, away from your friends and family who you love, from the job that ignites your passions and all your hobbies, would you ever be okay with them? No, you'd hate those bears. You'd maybe even lash out at them.
I am so proud of society forcing SeaWorld to stop their orca shows, and ecstatic they're going to stop making elephants stand on balls in the circuses, but what about all of the zoos and aquariums? I think it might be time to really evaluate that.
In the case of Harambe, he is gravely endangered. And yet we couldn't protect him well enough to prevent the possibility that a kid could fall in? If we really take protecting dying species seriously, we should take more pride in making sure they are safe. We should, if we continue to keep animals as toys, do everything we can to be good caregivers. Or we shouldn't do it anymore.
Perhaps we let all the healthy animals go and just protect the ones who wouldn't survive life outside. And perhaps we stop going into the wild and capturing new prisoners. If we just gave them protected land, we could still research and monitor them while not ruining their quality of life.
I'd really like us all to take a moment and think about how smart some of these animals are and how hollowing it must be to just get stared at all day in a tiny enclosure with nothing stimulating. Now, go off and enjoy your summer vacations to the zoo.