The polar bear is one of the animals that often have a difficult time living in captivity despite the attempts that are made to keep them happy. I remember learning about how when they are unhappy, they exhibit the repetitive behaviors of pacing, or making circular journeys throughout their habitat, and rubbing. A polar bear that is truly having a hard time will often rub many parts of its coat bald. From my understanding, the difficulty in keeping the bears content is because their native habitats are so astonishingly vast, that they are almost impossible to simulate in any way. So, I feel sad when I think of these unhappy animals, but I need to keep in mind that even though it was not their choice, they are helping other animals. The polar bear is a big draw at the zoo. Would I go if he weren’t there? Yes, of course, but I know that there are many people who would not want to go to the zoo if not for the big attractions. The tigers, and lions, and bears…and yes Shamu. Without all of that revenue, zoos would never be able to do all of the amazing things that they do for the animal kingdom and for our planet. Zoos bring in the money that facilitates research, wildlife rescue, and conservation. Because of zoos, and zoos alone, entire species have been kept from extinction. Last but not least, zoos inspire awe, connection, and understanding, between children and animals that most kids would never get an opportunity to see in their natural environment.
Zookeepers are some of the most wonderful and generous people that you will ever meet. They are the people who truly love animals and have since they were children. They have studied hard, and dedicated their lives to learning about animals. That is the reason that they end up in the jobs that they do, because they are living out lifelong dreams to be close to, and connect with the animal kingdom. My cousin works at a special zoo that keeps venomous reptiles. She adores the creatures, and actively educates people about them. She also risks her safety every day to extract the venom from reptiles that is used to make the anti-venom that saves peoples’ lives. One of my favorite zookeepers ever, was the lemur keeper at the Portland zoo in Oregon. I was heartbroken when they got rid of the lemur exhibit many years ago. I imagine that he tried to transfer with his lemurs when they were moved. It was one of the few zoos that were successful in keeping ringtails and a red lemur in the same habitat. That man explained to me that he handfed the red lemur every day, because if he did not, the others would steal all of his food. The guy adored his lemurs. Of course, trainers at reputable animal parks share the same love for the animal friends that they go to work with every day. I have watched them come home with bruised ribs, and bizarre injuries, which occur commonly when working with animals. They never complain one bit. And, agree with the means or not; zoos that provide the most entertainment generate the most revenue. They funnel the most money into the science, research, and rescue that aids the animal kingdom.
The majority of animal rights groups are very different, and I question whether they often have the true goal of helping animals. They cooperate with a fraction of the scientists and animal experts that are employed by zoos. Their organizations are poorly managed, and radical. They threaten physical harm and assault to the people who work in zoos. The organizations rely on spin-doctors as much as your average political campaign, and their finances are constantly reflecting misappropriation of funds. No group who claims to seek to protect the interests of animals should belittle and attack the reputation of people who have always put animals first. It is irrational, and childish, and honestly reflects the immaturity of these organizations, which makes a lot of sense when considering the age group that they generally aim their propaganda at. The group peta even has a website aimed at children which can be found in the link below.
I love zoos, and I respect them a lot. I believe that they are needed, and that the good work they do is currently being swept under the rug by activists that have a personal agenda to be famous on TV. The picture here is of my Koala club sticker. I have a vague memory of when I got it, I was only three or so, and how excited I was...and I still have it after all of these years.
Here is a link where you can check out some of the great work that they do at the San Diego Zoo:
Here is an article regarding the aspca and its finances: http://www.examiner.com/article/humane-society-of-united-states-under-investigation-by-irs-for-misappropriated-funds
Here is an article about peta: