Every time I visit a zoo (Marwell Zoo over this weekend), I wonder whether zoos in general a good idea or not. Let’s face it, animals should be in their natural habitats and not in cages, but I realise this is an over-simplified view of what a zoo could be and should be.
Animal cruelty news travels fast (especially when it concerns cute or popular animals). I am still disgusted by the way Tilikum has been treated by SeaWorld, and by the culling of snow monkeys because they were not pure. The fact that zoo-keepers have this sort of power over animals is worrying.
Think about how we take care of ourselves, our families, and our own animals. We need nutritious food to eat, a roof over our heads so we can avoid stress, and most of all, we need to surround ourselves with love. The sad truth is that not all zoos give this care to animals, and as visitors, how can we assess the quality of care given to animals?
For my peace of mind, I look out for memberships to associations like the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). These associations support research and communities, which means that the studied animals are more likely to be kept healthier and are more likely to be given their needed environment. A member of such an organisation also seems like they care for the animals, rather than just think of them as displays and attractions.
I also think that interaction between the zookeepers and the animals is a sign of care, especially if they can name each of the animals on site. Plus, communication from the zookeepers about the animals’ current statuses is a good sign, because you know that they actually monitor the events that take in the animals’ lives.
So where does Marwell Zoo stand in the good-zoo-bad-zoo spectrum?
For one, they’re a part of EAZA, because of their research into wildlife. The animals are kept in larger bits of land so they have space to interact with each other and hide from prying eyes if they want to. A lot of their animals are rescued from maltreatment, so that’s another plus. I didn’t see a lot of interaction, but they are very good at communicating on their website.
So yeah, I think they’re doing what they can with the space and financials they have.
Be sure to visit with someone who knows a lot about animals and can tell you fun facts about each bit of the park. Or you know… buy a guide if you can, and support the research team and the rescuers even more. I heard they’re starting a volunteering programme…
Let me know your feelings about this, I would love to hear from you.