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Comments by Jenny Moxham - 28 May 2010

In Reference to: Today, Orange Monkeys - Tomorrow?

Dear Sally,

Thank you very much for your letter. In order to make it easier for you to see my responses I have written them below in capitals.

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.

FROM THE PETA FACT SHEETS...Zoos claim to provide educational opportunities, but most visitors spend only a few minutes at each display, seeking entertainment rather than enlightenment. Over the course of five summers, a curator at the National Zoo followed more than 700 zoo visitors and found that "it didn’t matter what was on display … people [were] treating the exhibits like wallpaper." He determined that "officials should stop kidding themselves about the tremendous educational value of showing an animal behind a glass wall."  

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.

I'VE NO DOUBT THAT MANY ZOO STAFF MEMBERS ARE FOND OF THE ANIMALS IN THEIR CARE BUT, THE REALITY IS, THEY DO "CONTROL" THEM. THE ANIMALS HAVE NO CONTROL WHATSOEVER OVER THEIR OWN LIVES. THEY CAN'T COME AND GO AS THEY PLEASE OR LIVE AS THEY PLEASE. THEIR LIVES ARE "CONTROLLED" BY THEIR HUMAN KEEPERS.

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

THAT MAY BE SO BUT IF YOU WERE IMPRISONED SOMEWHERE AND GIVEN BOOKS AND TOYS, WOULD THAT EVER BE "SUFFICIENT" STIMULATION? WOULD IT BE COMPARABLE TO LIVING A NORMAL LIFE AND DOING ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU WOULD NORMALLY DO ?

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.

THIS IS VERY WORTHY- BUT IT STILL DOESN'T JUSTIFY IMPRISONING ANIMALS.

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

I DO NOT CONDONE IMPRISONING ANIMALS IN THE NAME OF CONSERVATION. .

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) .

THIS IS ADMIRABLE -BUT AGAIN, I DON'T CONDONE IMPRISONING ANIMALS IN ZOOS IN ORDER TO GET MONEY FOR PROJECTS.

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.

TALKING OF FOOD BRINGS UP ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH ZOOS. WHAT DO YOU FEED THE CARNIVORES? IN THE WILD LIONS, TIGERS, SNAKES ETC WILL HUNT THEIR PREY AND QUICKLY KILL IT. THE ANIMAL EATEN WILL HAVE ENJOYED A NORMAL LIFE UP UNTIL THE TIME IT WAS KILLED. IN A ZOO SCENARIO THE "FOOD" ANIMAL WILL MOST LIKELY HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO SEVERE DEPRIVATION IN SOME MAN MADE ESTABLISHMENT AND WILL HAVE HAD NO SEMBLANCE OF A NATURAL LIFE. (YET THESE "FOOD" ANIMALS ARE INTELLIGENT, SENSITIVE, FREEDOM LOVING CREATURES TOO)  

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.

THE CAPTIVE ANIMALS IN THE ZOOS WILL NOT BENEFIT AND WILL NOT CARE IF THEIR SPECIES CEASES TO BE. WHAT THEY DO CARE ABOUT, HOWEVER, IS LIVING A NORMAL, FREE LIFE. IF WE GENUINELY LOVE ANIMALS, THIS IS WHAT SHOULD MATTER TO US TOO.

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.

NOT AT ALL - AS I ASKED IN MY PREVIOUS LETTER - WOULD YOU BE HAPPY TO SPEND YOUR LIFE IN SEVERE CONFINEMENT AND DEPRIVATION IF IT WAS A WAY OF ENSURING THAT YOUR SPECIES SURVIVED? GIVEN THE CHOICE, I THINK YOU'D OPT FOR FREEDOM. WHY DO WE IMPRISON OUR WORST CRIMINALS? IT'S BECAUSE BECAUSE WE RECOGNIZE THAT THE GREATEST PUNISHMENT IS THE DEPRIVATION OF FREEDOM. UNLIKE OUR WORST CRIMINALS, HOWEVER, THESE ANIMALS HAVE DONE NOTHING TO DESERVE THIS PUNISHMENT.

The truth is that the animals in modern zoos are born there,...

WHY? ZOOS SHOULD NOT BE BREEDING ANIMALS.

...not taken from the wild. They lead comfortable, relatively stress free lives in large naturalistic enclosures.

PRISONERS IN OUR JAILS HAVE TELEVISION, EXERCISE YARDS AND COMPANY -BUT THEY ARE STILL NOT HAPPY TO BE THERE.

Animals usually will not breed if unhappy or under duress.

ZOO ANIMALS HAVE NO CHOICE NOT TO BREED WHEN THEY ARE FORCEFULLY IMPREGNATED BY ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION AS IS THE CASE WITH MANY ANIMALS IN OUR ZOOS.

The great majority of them are certainly on the endangered species lists.

MELBOURNE ZOO HAS 460 DIFFERENT SPECIES TARONGA ZOO HAS ABOUT 340 SPECIES I CAN'T IMAGINE THAT THE MAJORITY OF THESE ARE ENDANGERED SPECIES.  

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.

AND WHAT WILL THIS BABY'S FATE BE? A LIFETIME OF IMPRISONMENT? MAYBE SENT TO ANOTHER ZOO TO BREED? .

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.

I AGREE THAT THIS IS CERTAINLY AN IMPROVEMENT ON THE LIFE SHE HAD -BUT COULDN'T THE MONEY SPENT BRINGING HER TO AUSTRALIA AND CARING FOR HER HAVE BEEN BETTER SPENT SENDING HER TO A SANCTUARY CLOSER TO HER HOMELAND WHERE SHE COULD HAVE BEEN IN A MORE NATURAL SETTING.

Her story has helped raise thousands of dollars for Free the Bears fund...

ONE DOES NOT NEED TO VIEW A CAPTIVE BEAR TO HELP THESE ORGANIZATIONS.

...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 TOO COULD PROBABLY HAVE BEEN RELOCATED TO A SANCTUARY IN THEIR HOMELAND - OR CLOSE BY -AND BEEN HAPPIER..

They now live in a vital family group, with 2 new babies, scrub downs daily, toys and a stimulating environment.

A ZOO CAN NEVER REPLICATE THE LIFE AN ELEPHANT WOULD LEAD IN THE WILD. BUT, SAY THEY WERE HAPPIER NOW COMPARED WITH THEIR PREVIOUS LIFE, HOW DOES THIS JUSTIFY DELIBERATELY BRINGING A NEW BABY - OR NUMEROUS NEW BABIES - INTO EXISTENCE? BABY ELEPHANTS' WHO WILL BE CONDEMNED TO A LIFETIME OF IMPRISONMENT IN A ZOO EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE STILL 600,000 WILD AFRICAN ELEPHANTS AND UP TO 50, 000 ASIAN ELEPHANTS.  

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.

I SIMPLY BELIEVE THAT ALL BEINGS HAVE A RIGHT TO LIVE THEIR NATURAL LIFE. HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT THE "OWNERS" OF THE MULTITUDE OF OTHER BEINGS WITH WHOM WE SHARE THIS PLANET, THUS IT IS NOT OUR RIGHT TO LOCK THEM UP AND DEPRIVE THEM OF THEIR FREEDOM. I DO HOPE YOU CAN SEE THINGS FROM MY PERSPECTIVE - WHICH IS, OF COURSE, THE ANIMALS PERSPECTIVE. I SIMPLY BELIEVE IN TREATING OTHERS IN THE WAY THAT WE OURSELVES WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED IF WE WERE THEM.

Kindest regards,

Jenny.