Anonymous said: For the university program I'm choosing I will have to spend atleast 3 weeks working at a zoo and I feel really shitty about it already :( It's to learn about animal behaviour and body language and such, so I can see why it will be useful, but we could just as well watch a movie you know? Still its an obligatory part of the course so theres no getting around it. I want to use my education to help animals but idk if it can be justified to support these zoos? Im really not sure what to do :/
This could be an extremely important experiece in your life. Honestly.
I used to want to be a zookeeper. Studied hard, filled my head with information and facts about all animals, volunteered at a zoo, visited zoos every holiday, every day off, every chance I could afford. Went to college and studied a course which focuses largely on ‘exotic’ animals and captivity.
And that’s when I realised how wrong it felt, to me. How everything I’d loved and enjoyed for the past seventeen years felt sick and wrong when I realised what happened to captive animals: everything, from being on daily medication just to keep them from going insane/psychotic, to being fed totally inappropriate diets, to the drastic lengths you’d have to go just to stop them being freaked out by the public attention every day (lengths, might I add, that very few establishments go to). I went from wanting to work as a head keeper, to being horrified and disappointed. The “magic” of zoos was completely taken away when I went to college. I had to do countless papers on captivity, on stereotypical behaviour in captive animals, in their general care, health and safety, enrichment, etc etc. This thorough dissection of the industry I loved was so important, so damn important. If I hadn’t gone through that, I might be working there today. Something that went against my core, as an animal lover. When I volunteered at the zoo, that was when things began to creep into my head… doubt. I worked with the lemurs in a walkthrough enclosure and these animals were mentally tortured. In fact, one of the lemurs was so stressed by life like this that he repeatedly climbed the electric fence and escaped into the country. Imagine purposely hurting yourself like that just to be free?
When you do this, make notes, jot them down for yourself or just remember them, etch it into your memory. Take a good look at the things the public don’t notice. How small that cage is, compared to natural territory. How dull that coat is, those eyes, how repetitive that animal is being, or how he hides himself in the corner. How much time they actually have to get away from visitors. What foods they have versus what they should be eating (kibble, really??).
Be their eyes. Take a good long look because working at a zoo, knowing what to look for in zoos that often gets overlooked or totally unnoticed by layman types, can be more life-affirming and give you more information about what you want to pursue in life, than reading any anti-cap article or book.
Tumba, who sat in this position for a long time staring at the visitors, before turning his back and burying his face in his hands. Not at “my zoo”.
Pygmy hippo floated in water for over two hours not moving. The rest of her enclosure was concrete.
Seeing parrots/macaws/etc in cages is always depressing.
Kept trying to hide her baby from view. She was really anxious, showing her teeth and wide-eyed, she carried him to the ‘indoor’ area to find that everyone had their faces pressed to the glass in there too, eventually she sat here - still on full view - but in an alcove, still looked stressed. No peace.
Finches kept in an ‘aviary’ the size of my wardrobe. I kid you not. This was one of the areas I had to work in during my volunteering. At the time I saw nothing wrong with it and merely focused my camera on the bird - however, i could easily fit the whole aviary in my lens by standing back a bit, it was that small. You can sort of guage the size by looking at the roof in the photo below.
Kept on hard concrete. The only substrate was the hay to eat in bales, there was no straw bedding put down. Fair enough if they eat it but that means you put more in, enough so it’s still comfortable for them even if they do have a nibble, you don’t just neglect them entirely by sticking them in a concrete paddock ffs.
Species-inappropriate walkthrough. Where I was mostly stationed during my volunteering. Two red bellies, one male and one female, were introduced to an already established troop of 9 male ring tailed lemurs. The two species would never meet in the wild as they occupy different areas of Madagascar. The ring tails mercilessly bullied these two, chasing, stealing food, fighting etc, until the red-bellies actually began demonstrate unnatural living patterns with regards to their species purely to avoid conflict. Again, before I began to study animals, I assumed this was fine because why would a zoo cause this stress? (Hint: to attract more visitors with a more exotic array of lemurs. They chose to ignore this and instead added yet another pair of lemurs, of a third species, which were the ones I mentioned before who kept escaping due to stress). This third species were the Black lemurs, and Lotfi was the escape artist. In this photo he is anxiously swishing his tail back and forth, waiting for the ring tails to leave the feeding station so he can eat.
Aggressive behaviour was ignored, and mostly provided amusement for staff and visitors.
These are all behaviours and settings that I did not even think about or notice before joining this course. I learnt so much more about animal behaviour and welfare than I ever did before. It has allowed me to become a better and more informed activist, and has completely changed my views of captivity for non-human animals.
This is fucking important. Zoos are nothing more than prisons.