By Karey Burek

So what are we going to do?  Just a few days ago, a study came out that looked at the success of captive animals at zoos and aquariums around the world.   To the dismay of many, we found out that some animals need large areas to roam in order to be comfortable in their captive environments.  Polar bears, who can roam for miles sniffing out their next food source and lions who prowl through their large habitats were top on the list of animals that do poorly in captivity. This was shown by high birth mortality rates and high levels of stress in certain animals that were left to their own devices in cramped quarters.  

I am sure by now everyone has heard that Roy of Sigfried and Roy was attacked by one of their white tigers that had been a part of their stage act for years.  Questions were raised as to why this animal that had grown so close to its owners would then suddenly attack.  My guess, because it is a wild animal and shouldn't be used in stage acts.  No matter how well trained animals are, we must remember that they are still animals and have natural instincts to hunt, attack and kill.  If it has teeth, you can guarantee that it can definitely bite.

So again I ask, what are we going to do?  If we take everything as a whole, meaning that we look at the issue of animals in captivity, then it is easy to see that there is only one choice-leave natural habitat.  The reason that animals are in captivity is because their natural habitat is being destroyed and they have nowhere to go.  In order to keep them from extinction, zoos and aquariums "rescue" these animals so that we can learn from them and see them in the flesh.  Species Survival Plans (SSP) perpetuate the survival of animal species that are going extinct.  Our very own Lowry Park Zoo is part of the SSP program and works with other facilities around the world to reduce the number of endangered species by proper breeding and release programs.

Of course, the survival of animals is in our hands.  Habitat, environment, water quality and air quality-all of these things make or break an ecosystem. We have control over how these things are treated and which animals survive.  So in the words of Bob Marley, "stand up for your rights," or in this case, the rights of the animals. Protect habitat.

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