Stolen Lives: Animals Captured in the Wild

02 October 2014

Animal Voices

Animals Asia's Animal Welfare Director, Dave Neale, explains the dark secret behind the façade of the modern zoo and their well-stocked populations of chimpanzees, elephants, beluga whales and dolphins.

I am just a few months old when I hear them coming, my mother ushers me towards her and we begin to run. But we are not fast enough to outrun their bullets. I watch as my mother and the rest of my family drop to the ground. I am now left alone with the bodies of my loved ones lying motionless before me. A net is thrown over me and I am dragged into the darkness. I am just a baby.

This is my own 'anthropogenic' interpretation of what an elephant calf is likely to experience as their family is killed and (s)he is ripped from a life in the wild to be supplied to a zoo thousands of miles away.

This situation is all too real for many thousands of animals, and each and every time I think about this I despair at how any member of my own species can convince themselves that this is an acceptable scenario to be a part of. How can anybody support the removal of an individual from their mother and family, and to ship this individual off for a life in captivity with the associated loss of freedom?

JInan zoo_nov12

This situation deeply troubles me, despite our regularly touted "level of intellect" as a species –apparently above and beyond that of any other – individuals continue to use their "superior" cognitive abilities to justify these actions on the basis of their own income generation. Placing their own wishes and desires to have what they wish, above that of the right of an individual to live the life they were born to live.

Animals such as chimpanzees, orang-utans, gorillas, elephants, whales and dolphins are in high demand to supply both government run zoos/ocean parks and private collections. This demand is leading to unimaginable suffering for many thousands of individual animals.

Let's take chimpanzees as an example. To obtain one infant chimpanzee from the wild, it is estimated that an additional ten chimpanzees are likely to be killed. Many of these adults are likely to be slaughtered whilst defending their infants from the poachers, the animals left behind are likely to experience a significant amount of fear and distress due to the experience they have been involved in and witnessed. The suffering for the infants is unimaginable, they have to deal with the stress of losing their loved ones only to be thrust into the hands of people that care very little for their overall health and welfare. They are then shipped to a strange land to be placed into a barren enclosure and in many cases beaten into performing tricks as part of an animal circus.

Solitary male_nov13

When I see these animals (chimpanzees, elephants, beluga whales, dolphins, etc.) languishing in barren zoo enclosures or swimming round and round in circles in swimming pools which are a tiny fraction of the size of their ocean environments, I am ashamed. I feel that they must be looking at me and asking, "Why? What did I do to deserve this lifestyle? Why was I chosen to be a part of this absurd and often abusive life? And where is my mother and my family?"

It is time for us all to take a stand on behalf of these animals and demand an end to wild capture. Animals born wild have the right to live in the wild where they belong and it is our duty to protect them and their environment to ensure they can live as it is intended for them to do so, and not to live a life of captive misery.