Many people have happy memories of visiting zoos, going on animal safaris, visiting aquariums or wildlife centers, and enjoying circuses. However, few things are as unfortunate and sad as the lives led by these animals being held in captivity against their will.
Some institutions go to great lengths to try to provide realistic, comfortable habitats for the animals in their care, but even those measure up to be nothing more than glorified prisons. Put simply, animals in captivity live lives of misery. The number of sad animals being held in captivity is enormous and tragic and, more often than not, it results in a vast array of devastating psychological effects.
Captive Animals Live In A Hellish Boredom That Results In 'Zoochosis'
Who wouldn't be miserable being trapped in a small enclosure for their entire lifetime? Even the enclosures that beautifully mimic a "natural" habitat are prisons for captive animals. And the boredom experienced by these animals takes a heavy toll. So much so that there is even a scientific term to describe it: "Zoochosis." With nothing to do all day, captive animals become bored beyond comprehension. Their frustration and misery manifests in a number of neurotic symptoms, including: bar-biting, coprophagia (consuming and playing with excrement), self-mutilation, circling, rocking, swaying, pacing, excessive grooming, obsessive licking and scratching, and gnawing on habitat surfaces. Life in captivity is agony for animals, and many even lead to a pre-mature death for some.
Captive Animals Pace And Sway In Misery
The repetitive and neurotic behaviors often exhibited by captive animals are heartbreaking to watch. For many, their primary response to boredom comes in the form of swaying or pacing. Watching a lion pace back and forth in a cage doesn't necessarily mean that it is stalking zoo visitors - in reality, the lion is unbearably bored, and is pacing in order to try to cope with such a miserable situation. Some studies have suggested that lions and other large cats in captivity spend up to 44 percent of their lives pacing continually, back and forth.
However, there are ways to lower that devastating statistic. Some scholars have suggested that the inclusion of novelty in the habitat will cut down on the pacing and other neurotic behaviors. For example, if an animal is presented with a challenge in order to secure food, the brain stimulus will help the animal cope better in captivity. One zoo even experimented with releasing live fish into a polar bear's pool, creating an interesting challenge for the animal by requiring him to use his latent hunting skills. Another approach is for zoos to randomly release food to captive animals, and not always in the same location, in the same way, or at the same times every day. These are just a few of the steps that zoos and wildlife centers can take to at least help reduce the stress levels of the captive animals in their care.
Some Animals Suffer From Severe Neglect
As if captive animals didn't already have enough to deal with, animal neglect is rampant at a number of zoos, circuses, and other institutions that hold animals. Reports from around the world paint a dreadful picture of animals existing without veterinary care, proper food, clean water, or sufficient shelter, among a myriad of other issues. Once again, these animals are at the mercy of humans, and their suffering often goes unnoticed.
Some Animals Are Exposed To Extreme Heat And Cold
While some animals are native to extremely hot or cold climates around the world, there are a variety of ways that heat and cold can affect captive animals. While a lion might genetically be accustomed to the hot, dry savanna, in nature the lion could retreat to the cool grasses under a tree, or relax in a watering hole. This is not always the case in zoos and other captive animal situations. Polar bears and arctic animals often have an even worse time dealing with unaccustomed heat, while certain birds and tropical animals inevitably suffer greatly in cold zoo habitats. These animals have no idea what is going on or why they are living in such misery - they only have their human caretakers to turn to, and those caretakers work for the institution that has imprisoned them for the sake of money.