My Final Project

For those who were not able to see my presentation on Thursday, I decided to base my topic about animals confined in zoos. Several factor influenced the idea for my project. First, my family and I took a trip to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Second was watching Blackfish. In class a common terms always comes up, nature. What does nature mean to us? What is natural? Are keeping wild animals confined natural? What is natural to one living creature is not natural to another. It is actually unnatural, and in my opinion unethical, to have wild animals in confinement. I understand some animals need to be rehabilitated, but why don’t we let them go after they are nurtured back to health? Animals that are confined become physically and mentally stressed, and the stress from confinement causes animals to perform unnatural behaviors. In an article I read, there is a polar bear named Gus who lives in the Central Park Zoo and he “compulsively swimming figure eights in his pool, sometimes for 12 hours a day.” The article also states Gus gazes at children to the point it freaks them out. In order to help him, Gus was confined behind more physical barriers and was subjected to drugs and behavioral therapy. A lot of animals are like Gus; they do weird things from being confined. These unusual behaviors the animals perform have become common enough to have a term, zoochosis.

Even in the “better zoos” like the Columbus zoo, animals display unusual behaviors. Some of these unusual behaviors include: bar biting, tongue playing, pacing circling, vomiting, rocking, swaying, head bobbing and weaving, over grooming, and even self-mutilation. These abnormal behaviors stem from animals being held in artificial environments, unable to escape the public gaze. To help these animals escape zoochosis they are given distractions. Above, there is a picture I took of some gorillas at the zoo. They are swinging from the wooden bars. This is to help them relieve stress. Personally, I thought the bars were in there because gorillas like to swing from trees in the wild, therefore the bars/play set were like the zoos versions of trees. Other animals are given toys, food that takes longer to eat, even artificial representations of their natural habitat. Of course the animals are able to distingue these distractions and artificial representations, and go back to performing unusual tasks. These animals are meant to be in the wild, and no matter how hard we try to make the “feel at home” we can never replace the wild.

This led to my main focus; are zoos really for the animals or are they for us? Obviously, zoos are for us; it is a business. Zoos are able to capitalize off the animals. Zoo trips are a pleasant outing with family or friends, or an educational experience to introduce children to real wild animals. There is without a doubt debate whether zoos are good or bad, but either way, zoos are how most people come to know exotic animals and they aren’t going anywhere for a very long time.

Here is the link to the article: http://www.slate.com/blogs/wild_things/2014/06/20/animal_madness_zoochosis_stereotypic_behavior_and_problems_with_zoos.html

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t think zoos are bad and furthermore, it is good to keep animals that are threatened/endangered in captivity for the security of the species. Most genetic modeling shows that pandas are probably going to go extinct in our lifetimes. That is a reality that is approaching. They are too isolated of animals so forcing them to breed through wild mate selection is difficult and with China rapidly industrializing, it is difficult to combat habitat destruction. Okay, so let’s hypothetically say that we could save the panda if we took each member of the species into captivity, used animal husbandry to force pregnancy thus bringing population numbers up, in a matter of just a few years. Would you do it to save a species? I would. Our children are going to think we’re idiots for not doing extreme measures to preserve biodiversity if we don’t start doing things like this. We did this for the bald eagle and it is now back in the wild and thriving. This technique can work.

    To the point of releasing animals – especially the gorillas you mentioned – gorillas are critically endangered. Dropping them off back into west Africa into countries that can barely be non-corrupt enough to function or maintain a stable currency is not capable of watching after poachers. Keeping the gorillas in captivity is not their natural habitat, but it allows us to preserve nature. Nature is still nature, even if in an artificial environment.

  2. I do not think all zoos are bad but I have always thought of them as a little sad. You pointed out some very things that i did not know about the animals behavior. I have not been to the zoo in years and this may keep me from going for many more.

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