Britain wants to ban the captivity of elephants in zoos
The UK government intends to ban the captivity of elephants in zoos and safaris in its Kept Animals Act, due later this year. The ban, initiated by Environment Secretary Zac Goldsmith, is backed up by a forthcoming report on the welfare of captive elephants and the inability to satisfy their natural behavior in a zoo. This Act is part of a broader set of zoo reforms that are expected to be included in the Animal Husbandry Act.
Elephants suffer from a variety of diseases in captivity, including mental degradation, arthritis, and hernias. The wild animals are complex social beings that live in family units and walk up to 30 miles each day in search of food. In the wild, elephants live up to 50 years – a life expectancy that is reduced to just 17 years in captivity.
Elephant biologist Audrey Delsink, PhD, Wildlife Director of Humane Society International (HSI) / Africa, studies elephant populations in South Africa and welcomes the new legislation aimed at preventing future generations of elephants from suffering in captivity. “Elephants are highly intelligent, extremely social, sentient beings with complex family structures and bonds that last a lifetime,” said Delsink. “They need space to move freely with other elephants, where they can express normal elephant behavior and thrive emotionally and physically.”
There are currently 51 captive elephants in 11 UK zoos. Under the new legislation, the animals are allowed to live their natural life and no additional elephants are bred or caught to replace them.
Elephants in circuses
In addition to phasing out elephants from zoos, the UK also passed a ban on wildlife circuses in January 2020, ending the exploitation of elephants and other animals for entertainment.
The UK is part of a growing list of countries banning the use of wildlife in circus performances. As the public becomes more aware of the atrocities wild animals endure while exploited for entertainment purposes, circuses that rely on pet stores are forced to close, particularly the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
After increasing public pressure from animal welfare concerns, the circus company “moved” its remaining 11 elephants to a Florida facility in 2016, where they were unfortunately used for human cancer research. In 2017, falling ticket sales, changing public perceptions of circuses, and pressure from animal rights groups finally forced Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to close after 146 years of operation.
What about other animals in captivity?
Elephants aren’t the only animals to suffer in captivity, as other wildlife – like lions, giraffes, and whales – are kept in cramped conditions that cannot live up to their natural behavior.
“Marine mammals also suffer in captivity as they too are very social, long-lived creatures and are unable to fully exercise their natural behavior,” Delsink told VegNews. “Like elephants, marine mammals try to cope with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors known as ‘stereotypes’ – repetitive, pointless habits to combat stress and boredom.”
Delsink referred to the work of Bob Jacobs, a professor of neuroscience at Colorado College, who showed that locking large mammals in zoos and aquariums leads to neurological damage and impaired brain function.
“Research by Professor Jacobs and many other scientists into the neurological effects of caging animals gives us evidence that can no longer be disputed,” said Delsink. “[UK’s forthcoming elephant] Legislation is evidence of this work and the key to forcing us, for our entertainment and so-called education, to study how we interact with animals. Today’s technology offers a variety of highly immersive educational methods to teach us everything from black holes to dinosaurs – things we have never seen before but still know. ”
The captured marine animals from SeaWorldWorld
The SeaWorld water park in the States has been using marine animals for entertainment for nearly 50 years. In 2013, SeaWorld came under fire after the documentary was released Black fish that revolved around Tilikum, an orca captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 and who lived in Orlando for most of his life until he died of a persistent bacterial lung infection in 2017 at the age of 35.
After the film was released, SeaWorld saw heavy profits and attendance and ended its orca breeding program in 2015. Under pressure from animal rights groups including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), SeaWorld ended its Ocean One Orca shows in 2017 and promised to end its shows with trainers riding on dolphins’ faces and backs in 2020.
Despite continued pressure and a recent $ 250,000 offer from PETA to withdraw marine animals to a seaside sanctuary, SeaWorld continues to keep the intelligent creatures trapped in small tanks where they are unable to perform their natural behavior.