During my internship at PETA, I went to Manila Zoo to check up on Mali the elephant for the Free Mali campaign (you can read more about it here). Obviously zoos are not somewhere I would normally go, but I thought I could use the opportunity to write about them and share my experience.
Upon entering Manila Zoo, Mali is the first animal you see on your right, pacing back and forth in her tiny enclosure. Directly across from her were two miserable looking ostriches who had huge patches of missing feathers and the bones of their wings on show. Next was the reptile enclosures which were extremely old, dirty and bare.
There was a lot of crocodiles in the zoo. One had a misshaped jaw and another an open wound. Their enclosures again were small, dirty and they only had a small pond full of dirty water. A depressed and lonely looking hippo also sat in her pond of dirty water all alone.
The most disturbing thing I saw was the tiger enclosures. One tiger was kept all alone in what looked like a bird cage with nothing inside. Another tiger was kept separately behind another tiny tiger enclosure in an extremely small boxed cage.
These are only just a few of the horrific things I saw at the ‘zoo.’ It’s true that this is an example of a really terrible zoo with gross mistreatment of animals, but is there such a thing as a nice zoo? Obviously I don’t think so. You can give animals the largest, most cleanest cage with 24-hour, 5 star medical care but it won’t stop the suffering. It might make ourselves feel better about enslaving them though. A large, nicely decorated cage is still just that: a cage. It means nothing for these animals when all they want is their freedom.
A lot of arguments used for keeping zoos are that they are ‘educational’ and they ‘conserve endangered wildlife.’ I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember learning anything about animals from going to the Zoo. There’s so much information in videos, documentaries, books, etc. out there that there is no reason for children to go to zoos for education. Seeing animals in zoos only shows children what animals behave like in captivity, it doesn’t reflect their natural behaviors in the wild. In the documentary ”Should we close our Zoos” it shows that most of the time people spend at the Zoo’s is actually at the refreshment stand, where you can buy the chopped-up, dead bodies of other animals. Speciesism at its finest.
The documentary also stated that ”more than 90 per cent of the species kept by zoos are not endangered in the wild.” So don’t be fooled into thinking that zoos exist for conservation of animals. They don’t. All they care about is money. And what brings in more money than ever? Baby animals. They don’t breed animals for release into the wild like they want you to believe, instead they breed animals to get people through the gates. And then all the extra animals they have are sadly killed. Between 3,000 & 5,000 healthy ”surplus” animals are killed in European zoos each year.
Surely it’s better to teach children to show love, kindness and respect towards animals instead of teaching them that it’s ok to exploit them for our entertainment. If we continue to believe that zoos are here to conserve animals that may otherwise go extinct, we are just lying to ourselves. If we do really care about wild or endangered animals then we should be looking at the number one reason their lives are threatened in the first place.