Most people call them zoos or game farms. Personally, I prefer to call them what they really are – animal jails where the inmates don’t get any time off for good behaviour.
There was a time when zoos might have served a useful educational function. Tourists and other folks could see close up what these beasts looked like without having to go on an African safari or a trek into the back country. That was supposed to encourage them to spread the word about wildlife preservation.
Thanks to the proliferation of good quality wildlife programs on television, those days have long since gone. You can see and learn a lot more about almost any animal or bird by viewing them on television than the image or knowledge any zoo or game farm can portray.
Anyone who thinks they are getting a realistic view of wild animals or fowl by viewing them in caged or fenced, restrictive and confining areas is plainly delusional. Wild animals need wild spaces to survive and for their populations to prosper.
It is nauseating to see a cougar or timber wolf or any other wild creature lying about in languid desultory fashion, held captive by chain link fences and concrete pens simply to satisfy the curiosity of gawking tourists.
Most of the wild animals held in captivity are afforded but a tiny fraction of the space they would normally occupy in the wild.
I believe cougars in the wild require up to 30 square kilometres of territory in which to freely roam and hunt their prey. In a zoo or game farm setting, they are restricted to a few thousand square metres.
Similar ratios could be applied to almost any of the animals kept in the same conditions.
It’s something like housing humans in a hall closet except the humans wouldn’t have people coming by to gawk at them or throw unsuitable food at them in their already filthy pens or cages.
Besides a place to incarcerate wild creatures, the word zoo is also used to describe a busy or crazy kind of place where manic human behaviour is the norm. It doesn’t suggest anything normal people should be forced to endure and the same is true about animals in the other kind of zoos. It’s something normally wild animals shouldn’t be forced to endure either.
The use of the term, game farm, is equally repugnant because it reinforces the idea that these animals are legitimate game species which is a bizarre and untrue concept.
Many people claim that zoos provide a valuable resource where wild animals can be studied and where scientific research can be carried out to determine how to preserve some species that are quickly disappearing from planet Earth.
The simple truth is that the survival of many species is threatened in ways in which research carried out at zoos or game farms will have absolutely no bearing.
Trophy hunting in North America and the criminally commercial destruction of elephants and other wildlife in Africa is a far bigger threat to wildlife populations than anything else on Earth and that problem can’t be solved in a laboratory.
The fact that much of this slaughter for trophies and organs is carried out to satisfy market demands in Asian countries is pathetic, because few governments, including our own, have the political will to do much about it.
Instead, we almost have a national orgasm celebrating the visit to this country of a few panda bears.
The world’s wild creatures deserve a much better fate than what is provided at zoos and game farms and the pathetic levels of protection provided by government and a hugely indifferent public.
Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and Maple Ridge councillor.