I’ve been grumpy all day, thinking about my life beyond this concrete wall. When will this pandemic end? Is the only question running in all of our minds these days. The social media platforms are flooded with the message that people face anxiety and depression. Why? They miss being around their friends and colleagues, doing fun stuffs they all used to do. All the news channels and newspapers have been broadcasting the latest information on covid-19 and the number of people affected by it. People have been constantly checking the app advised by the government, to know if there is any affected people near them. And the lockdown rules are not obeyed by everyone. Some people are ready to risk their lives rather than staying inside their house. The sale of facemasks and sanitizers has shot up rapidly. People are concerned about their loved ones and themselves. But, have we spared at least a minute to think about ‘THEM’, who is so lonely? Who is living far away from their home and away from their kinds. Who were imprisoned inside a wall of metal bars, inside a concrete enclosure for a crime they did not commit? Yes, ‘THEM’ is the animals held in captivity at zoos. We haven’t cared much about keeping animals in zoos before. Now it’s time for us to realize how hard it must be for them. The zoo enclosure is definitely inadequate for the needs of animals. We people could not wait anymore for this pandemic period to end, because we miss meeting our friends, going to the cinemas and shopping malls or do anything other than being inside a four walled room. It is just as hard for them as it is for us. At least we humans are hoping for better days ahead. But, the animals once locked in captivity never get to return to their home. Who are we to forbid those living beings from running, foraging, hunting their own food? They too, like us, depend on mother nature and have a life to live and kids to feed. Zoos help in saving the extinct species, but that is not the only option left to save them. We humans are the only reasons they have entered the list of endangered species. We interfered with their habitat in the first place. We kill them to enjoy their resources.
If you want your kids to know about wild animals do not take them to a zoo. Take them to a jungle and let them explore the beauty of mother nature and the real habitat of animals. That is the real education. Most zoo enclosures are very small. They are closely confined, giving animals a little opportunity for physical exercises. An average cheetah has the potential to kill a 50Kg caiman crocodile and can carry it up a 30meter tall tree without any hardship. As these types of physical exercises are missing in a zoo environment, it is likely to reduce their lifespan. Reports say that, many animals held in captivity show behavioural problems before dying prematurely. They spend almost all of their time pacing in a tight circle, showing psychological distress.
A wildlife survey states that an average African elephant can live up to 60-70 years and will die a natural death. Whereas an African elephant held in captivity can live up to sixteen point nine years maximum. Researchers state two reason for this rapid fall in their life span. One, an elephant can eat 150kg to 300kg per day, minimum (16 hours a day) if it was set loose in a jungle. Not every zoos across the world is ready to afford at least half of that amount for a single elephant. Elephants also require vast space to roam around and to socialize with its herd. Two, elephants held in captivity show signs of depression, stress and psychological dysfunction which can affect them both physically and mentally, says a report given by Oxford university. This not only happens to the gentlest giants but also to majestic and exalted beings like tigers, lions, bears, leopards, cheetahs and so on. Many zoos breed baby animals as they grab a lot of attention from the visitors. Once they grow up they are either transferred to other zoos or not given much care. Let us take a second to think about the welfare of those innocent beings whose rights are neglected. After a tiring day at work we change the channel to watch animal planet or national geography to see them live their own life at their own home or switch the channel which telecasts the activities of animals at zoos? ‘Every creation of nature looks best when it is set free.’ Most people I’ve talked to about zoos, thinks that the animals will eventually get used to a life in captivity. No! Though, after many generations of captive breeding they really do retain their natural instincts.
Not only animals suffer being alone but also birds. Almost everybody loves watching birds and admire their magnificent feathers. The lifestyle of birds are quite different from animals’. The way they build nests, lay eggs, train their young ones, migrate from one place to another at the start of a particular season, never failed to amaze us. If we dig deep into the concept of birds in zoos, a question will surely pop up in our heads, why don’t birds at zoos fly away? Many zoos use large nets to cover the birds’ area. But some zoos handle the method of clipping feathers and wings. Clipping feathers prevent birds from real flight. Once the feathers grow back the same procedure is repeated. Every time this process is carried out, birds show signs of stress and anxiety. Clipping wings means removing the wing-bone of a bird. The birds will not be able to fly again. The main speciality of birds are their flight. Who are we take away their freedom of flight?
I was surfing through the internet the other day just to kill time and came across a disquisition about the kindness that animals shower us without expecting a repay. A pride of lions in Ethiopia has saved a girl from abductors on the way back from school. They chased away the kidnappers and protected the girl until police arrived at the scene. Another instance states that a stray dog has saved a girl from a rapist; a pod of dolphins saved a family from white sharks; a beaver family has saved a little orphan boy from freezing to death . But what have we done for them? Some people claim that these animals are too dangerous and such miracles happen once in a blue moon. Well, let us look at the death of a four year old Siberian tiger that was shot dead for killing a man who threw stones at her and taunted her. It’s on the blood of these wild animals to hunt their own prey. We cannot domesticate them or train them. There have been many incidents where animals in zoos were killed to save humans.
Are we doing justice for the animals? We are just using them for our benefit. We are destroying their lives. “Animals should not require our permission to live on earth. Animals were given the right to be here long before we arrived,” says Canadian animal rights activist, Anthony Douglas Williams. How true is that? This covid-19 pandemic has taught us how it is like to be caged and away from our home. People, let us join hands to help the innocent beings get freedom and peace. Let us give the right education about animals to our children. Let us spend our money to rescue and help them go back home rather than spending our money to visit them in a cage.
“The greatness of the nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
-Pooja Ramakrishnan (One of the Prize Winners of Article Writing Competition 2020 in the 13-24 Years Age Group)
Picture Credits: dailythanthi.com