Monday, April 09, 2007

Zoos: Voyeuristic prisons, or Conservation research establishments?

Thursday was a trip to Belfast Zoo. Royman added a comment to the post (and added it as a post in his fledgling blog too - a neat and repeatable trick!), writing ...

“The most sorrowful scene I witnessed was at old Bellevue Zoo in Belfast when I was a child. They had a grey wolf in an enclosure - a nicer name for a cage- and it did nothing but pace up and down from its concrete shelter to the end of its world, a perimenter fence then turn around and pace back to its concrete hut and it repeated this trek over and over. The look on that suffering once noble animal was heartbreaking.I say let's close all Zoos Worldwide.”

Is he right? Don’t get me wrong: the animals in Belfast Zoo seem well looked after. The zoo-keepers seem attentive and dedicated to their animals. The cages are clean and smell fresh.

The smaller animals look to be having a ball: the lemurs have the run of a whole forest (well, a small wood) of trees, runs and ropes. The giraffes have a huge yard to wander around, strangely followed by some ostriches. And the penguins look like they’re in heaven swimming around their extended pool.

But the lions and leopards seem bored. Pacing round and round their enclosures, large enclosures, but far from the savannahs they are used to. In my mind—and I’m not an expert in animal welfare or running a zoo—it falls short of cruelty, but it’s less than ideal to keep such large animals isolated, sometimes on their own away from their species, in less than expansive enclosures.

Or is it more complicated? Does the threat of extinction justify less than perfect methods of ensuring that species continue to survive? That education about conservation will bring about a greater good?

What do you think about Royman’s point? Do you agree? Disagree?


grumpy old man said...


A good question.

Those very bored looking Barbary Lions at Belfast Zoo are most definitely in way too small an enclosure for their and my comfort, but the nice zoo people are at pains to remind us that they are already extinct in the wild !!!

And with many other species (including all 5 of the remaining kinds of tiger) going rapidly in the same direction, i'm definitely giving Belfast Zoo my vote of confidence for a sterling job conserving and preserving.

royman said...

So you are comfortable that Belfast's Animal Prison and other such institutions worldwide are are conducting a campaign of animal genocide?

What will happen when the final Barbary Lion dies in capativity in Belfast?
Which endangered animal will they then imprison in its place then watch over it until the day it dies? Thus contributing to the number of the worlds endangered species.

As for sterling work: I have lost count of the number of animals that have escaped Belfast "Zoo". The most infamous being the tiger that escaped sometime in the '70s. The terrifed animal was cornered in a garden in the Shore Road area before being tranquilised and re-captured. It escaped because it wanted to go home to its natural environment where it could live in wild freedom.

I am glad that the nice zoo people tooks pains to remind you that the Barbary Lions are extinct.

It's a pity they don't feel more pain in the form of guilt and embarrassment for the cruelty they are inflicting on all their captives

Alan in Belfast said...

Royman's own Belfast-centric blog can now be found over at Bonaparte's Retreat.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to look more in to what other things zoos do round the world instead of always looking at what type of enclousure animals are kept in which in my opinion is the only subject people can actually think off.
What bout the animals that have been on the verge of extinction that zoos have bred successfully AND reintroduced back in to the wild.
So before you do go off slagging people off behind their backs why dont you try and think of some good that these people are trying to do. And the way they are trying to save all kinds of animals for the next generation to be able to enjoy.
and there are better ways of getting your point across then going round accusing people and calling them names.