What is your take on zoos? In one way the very idea of them is abhorrent to me. Once working with children, we went on a day trip to a zoo, I still remember the sight of monkeys, totally bored, totally depressed, while people on the other side of the bars laughed at them.
In some parts of the world most zoos these days have moved on from the zoos of old when cement cages and steel-bar enclosures were commonplace. The zoo closest to where I live Parc de Vincennes, having closed for a quite a long time opened with enclosures that seem to take into account the animals natural habitats. Planners opted for limited, better-constructed habitats, allowing more animals, however smaller ones. The zoo’s veterinarian Alexis Lécu, points out the team considered ecological needs and required habitat sizes for the nearly 1000 animals in the new spaces. “We had to make some choices since we are limited. We can’t have everything,” he said. Some animals which were part of the zoo before the renovation were excluded, for example there are no elephants, or brown bears.
There seems a lot of positives about this zoo, particularly some of the space afforded to the animals, however I wonder think about the open space a Giraffe or zebra might normally cover in a natural habitat compared to the space it has in this zoo. A Giraffes long legs allow giraffes to run as fast as 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour over short distances and cruise comfortably at 10 miles (16 kilometers) an hour over longer distances and like zebras are designed, and are built, to run across miles of terrain, something they cannot do in captivity. The chances are, that despite a conscious effort to improve the animals environment, the likelihood is that it won’t equate what the animal would have if free and the animal will most likely get depressed.
Unfortunately not all zoos are like Parc de Vincennes, . Take Giza Zoo in Egypt for example. Hundreds of their animals have died due to poor living standards and the fact that the zoo cannot afford medical care for their animals.
Essentially zoos are like jails, the animals have their freedom taken away from them and they are being humans to gawp at them. On the other hand, if you have a young child it is a wonderful opportunity to show them animals, such as Lions, and other wild cats, that they would have little chance of seeing (given that such animals don’t exist in Europe).
Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.
This article is part of a blogging challenge,