Zoos are needed more than ever
Sir, – Jennifer White (June 13th), lamenting the recent death of a spider monkey from Belfast Zoo, sees zoos as prisons, and the animals as miserable captives nobly enduring a degrading life as mere exhibits, while always hoping to escape to the natural habitats they were cruelly stolen from.
There is some truth to this.
Even the best zoos can only offer small living spaces, and animals that evolved to explore vast territories doubtless suffer.
But the reality is a little different than she describes, and the supposed villains she decries are not guilty of uncaringly incarcerating innocent creatures.
There are no Edens to which zoo animals may return. For tens of thousands of years we have devastated the habitats of animals in every corner of the earth. We, not zoos, are to blame for the plight of the spider monkey and practically every other animal that exists, or had existed until they met us.
The free wild spaces animals once enjoyed are now mostly covered in concrete.
Zoos are imperfect, but animals in zoos are generally healthier and live longer than they would in even the healthiest of the remaining natural wildernesses.
Zoos can play an essential role in protecting endangered species and a valuable role in encouraging us to develop some regard for the animals we grudgingly share the Earth with.
Our population continues to increase and we continue to encroach on the habitats of other animals.
Despite their limitations, zoos are needed more than ever. – Yours, etc,