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Comments by Sally Bradley - 25 May 2010

In Reference to: Today, Orange Monkeys - Tomorrow?

Dear Jenny,

Once again you use word “most” a lot. This is a very sweeping word that simply puts everyone into the same basket. Whilst some of your comments are true in regards to zoos from the past (the 19th century) and some Asian zoos and wildlife parks, they are certainly too general and sweeping for modern zoos, who are strictly controlled by governing organizations such as ARAZPA and other animal welfare organizations.

I strongly disagree that the public visiting zoos take on the message that “keeping animals in captivity is fun and amusing”. Modern zoos are compelled to educate the public about these animals, and are filled with signage indicating their plight in the wild, as well as conveying the message directly through keepers at public talks.

Zoo staff are very passionate about the welfare of animals generally, and would be extremely insulted by many of your comments regarding their position and chosen life path, and inference that they do not care for their animals but “control” them.

ARAZPA rules ensure that member zoos recognize any unnatural behaviors and provide sufficient enrichment and stimulation.

They also instigate programs into zoos to implement strategies to involve and educate the general public in regards to conservation, as well as recycling ideas in their everyday lives, to help make a difference.

You are passionate about conservation yet say that conservation ideas in Zoos are gimmicks.

Money collected at zoos is from people who are genuinely stimulated by their empathy for that animal’s plight in the wild, not by a sense of boosting profits.

Money donated to animal programs goes directly to those charities, such as the current fundraising programs for Orangutans (Palm Oil) and Gorillas (Mobile Phone collection).

Any “profits”, like gate takings, are directed straight back into the day to day running of the zoo, for animal feed and staff wages for example.

Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world – animals are not left undisturbed, and saying that we “just should leave everything alone” is simplistic and unrealistic.

Conservation habitat is not viable in many places at the moment, and no amount of money “poured into” that area will make any difference unless you can re educate those people into making a change.

Sumatra and Borneo for example – their governments are simply not interested in conserving their animal habitats, or their animals for that matter.

And to say that zoo animals are unhappy and would “rather be extinct”, and “condemned to a life imprisoned” are once again extremely emotive statements.

The truth is that the animals in modern zoos are born there, not taken from the wild. They lead comfortable, relatively stress free lives in large naturalistic enclosures.

Animals usually will not breed if unhappy or under duress. The great majority of them are certainly on the endangered species lists.

There are a few exceptions;

We have a beautiful Sun Bear here, saved from the restaurant trade in Cambodia; she has recently given birth to her first cub. I am pretty sure she is extremely happy she is not still in that cage being eaten one piece at a time, having her bile drained slowly through a tube or dead.

Her story has helped raise thousands of dollars for Free the Bears fund to continue their work to free sun and moon bears from a life too horrible to imagine.

The elephants in Taronga were saved from a long life of extreme boredom – they were out of work, excess to the needs of the village people, housed in a very small paddock with no stimulation.

They now live in a vital family group, with 2 new babies, scrub downs daily, toys and a stimulating environment. The media stories involving the babies have helped to raise millions towards elephant rehabilitation, and conserving their habitat in Asia.

There’s nothing much more I can say to change your mind.

You are certainly very passionate about animals; I just feel you are a bit misdirected in regards to your attack on modern zoos.

Regards,

Sally

Sally Bradley
National Zoo & Aquarium