Earlier this year I wrote a post expressing my anger at tourists who support cruel animal attractions, where animals get beaten into submission and constantly abused behind the scenes. After the recent tragic zoo shootings of Harambe the gorilla and the two lions in Chile, as well as last week’s raiding of Tiger Temple in Thailand, I want to bring this topic back up. There is a HUGE difference between wild vs. captivity, so let’s talk about it.
BUT FIRST…LET ME TAKE A SELFIE.
Wild animal selfies can sometimes be incredibly annoying to see. Even I was an idiot in the past and had my photo taken on an elephant in my early travel days when I was ignorant about cruel animal attractions. So I want to believe that most people simply don’t realize that what they’re doing is wrong—mainly because society has made it seem so normal. People need to understand that just because society has normalized animal captivity, that doesn’t make it ok.
Society has desensitized us to seeing many animal attractions for what they really are, and as a result, most people have been happily taking their kids to zoos and travelers have been naively visiting cruel animal tourist attractions, without stopping to think about how wrong it is to rip a WILD animal from its natural habitat and put it in a cage or a tank just to entertain humans. While there are some ethical places out there who exist to legitimately rescue animals, there are many who exist solely to profit off their captivity.
WILD VS. CAPTIVITY: SEE THE DIFFERENCE
Every day, animals around the world are fighting for their lives because of human negligence, ignorance, and selfishness. Wild animals belong in the wild. They do not exist for our entertainment. How would you like it if you were taken from your family, thrown in a cage, and forced to perform for the rest of your life? I imagine that would suck.
Watch the video (and continue reading below)
For those who think animals are happy in cages and tanks, let’s look at just 2 examples I found of the differences between animals in the wild and animals forced to live in captivity.
These are some of the world’s most intelligent mammals. They are social, perceptive, affectionate and require close contact with other elephants and frequent exercise.
In the wild:
- They live with as many as 100 other elephants.
- They have constant companionship and are emotionally attached to members of their group (they even show signs of mourning when a close group member passes away).
- They walk up to 40 miles a day.
- They play, bathe in rivers, and engage in constant exercise.
- In their NATURAL environment, they live up to 60-70 years.
- They are usually kept alone or in small units.
- They are deprived of socialization often show constant signs of stress like head bobbing.
- Often they are chained in place and receive little to no exercise, become depressed and overweight.
- Many get beaten into submission and suffer all kinds of abuse.
- Their lifespan gets cut drastically in captivity—most die before the age of 40 due to extreme stress. They suffer chronic health problems like tuberculosis, arthritis, and foot abscesses.
This one is a little more complicated. A century ago, the world’s wild tiger population was at about 100,000 and was widespread through Asia. Nowadays? Due to loss of habitat and poaching, that number has plummeted to a horrifying 3,200! Unfortunately for tigers, because their homes are being destroyed, responsible captive breeding programs is currently the only solution for saving them from complete annihilation. As a matter of fact, one of the world’s largest populations of tigers doesn’t exist in the wild—but in captivity in the United Sates. Although there are true conservationists out there with good intentions, there are people out there with greedy ones.
In the wild:
- They often live and travel across a habitat that can span 7.7 square miles for female tigers and up to 39 square miles for male tigers.
- Currently only about 3200 tigers remain in the wild.
- They live their lives in tiny enclosures. Many tigers now live in backyards as pets.
- Currently there are about 5000 tigers living in captivity in the United States. The White Tiger is an example of a tiger that can’t even be found in the wild—it gets its white color from years of humans inbreeding them which leads to their white color, along with crippling disabilities. People market them as “rare” tigers to be used as an attraction.
ZOO SHOOTINGS AND TIGER TEMPLE RAIDING
Since my last animal tourist attraction post, some major events have occurred.
- Harambe the gorilla was shot to death at the Cincinnati Zoo to save the life of a child who found his way into the gorilla exhibit moat.
- 2 lions were shot to death at a Chilean zoo during one man’s suicidal attempt to get mauled by them. He entered their enclosure, stripped his clothes, and taunted the lions. Zoo employees wound up shooting the lions to protect the man.
- The infamous Thailand Tiger Temple I mentioned in my last post was raided! What did they find? About 40 baby tiger carcasses were stuffed crudely into freezers, as well as a small rare bearcat and jars filled with tiger organs and a set of horns (the photos are incredibly heartbreaking). Police also caught a monk attempting to flee in a truck carrying tiger skins and teeth. Officials began the removal of about 137 tigers that were being kept at the temple.
Everyone keeps asking who is at fault in these situations. I think the bigger issue at hand is—why do these places exist in the first place? Why do people keep paying to visit these attractions? How have humans become so desensitized that they can’t recognize that there’s nothing morally right about condemning an animal to a lifetime of captivity all in the name of entertainment?
Parents, stop taking your kids to zoos and circuses. Tourists, stop going abroad to have your photos taken with captive wild animals. When you see people trying to look cool by posting photos of themselves at cruel animal attractions, kindly send them a private message along with a link to this PDF that World Animal Protection put together listing the top 10 cruelest wildlife entertainment attractions.