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Kimberly Bertrand

Instructor Douglas

ENG 112 - 01

03 May 2017

Ending Captivity

As a child, there is nothing more exciting than taking a trip down to a local zoo and

seeing all your favorite animals up close and personal. It is exciting to see all the different

species that come from every corner of the Earth, all under one roof. As a child, that is all the zoo

is - exciting. Children like to uphold the idea that this is a normal life for these animals, that they

are happy. As adults, we have to see beyond that naive viewpoint. We have to see that keeping

animals in an unnatural habitat away from their families and home is inhumane and immorally

wrong. As children, we could not of done much to fix this ongoing problem. Now, we must stand

up and fight for the animals who can not fight for themselves.

On May 28, 2016, a silverback gorilla named Harambe was killed in his home at the

Cincinnati Zoo. The animal was showing territorial, potentially aggressive, behaviors after a

three year old boy climbed into his enclosure and fell to the bottom of the moat. Out of fear that

the seventeen year old gorilla would harm the child, Harambe was shot by zookeepers (Bekoff).

The event not only caused a plethora of jokes among internet trolls, but it created controversy on

who is to blame and if it was right to have Harambe be the one to take the fall. It can be argued

multiple ways that it was the lack of supervision from the mother or how the zoo should of had a

better enclosed area for tourists to see the animals. Regardless of who was in the wrong, a

beautiful gorilla died due to the mistakes from human beings. Harambe was a captive-born
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animal that had never experienced a single day in what the world intended to be his natural

habitat. And because of this, captivity was all he knew of. He did not know what living in the

jungle was like and how to naturally bred, eat, or protect himself. This gorilla should of never

been in a situation where he was considered a threat because an unsupervised child entered

into his own territory. Harambe was the symbolization to phase out the contact that humans have

with wild animals, and to just let them live in their own habitat without us interfering. From this

event, it is obvious that wild animals and humans are not meant to coexist. We live in different

environments and just put each other at risk when he decide to invade those boundaries.

Harambe may of been killed due to his aggressive behavior, but his death is on the hands that put

him in captivity in the first place.

It has been well documented that certain species behave specifically different when they

are held in captivity. Many animals cope with unstimulating or small environments through

stereotypic behavior, which, in zoological parlance, is a repetitive behavior that serves no

obvious purpose, such as pacing, bar biting, and figure-eight swimming (Smith). In a more

popular observation that recently came to light in the documentary Blackfish, it is said that killer

whales dorsal fins stand tall and proud in the wild. But almost every orca in the SeaWorld parks

have dorsal fins that slump and hang over their backs. This just continue to shows that an

animals life is half- fulfilled when it is trapped inside a steal cage for our entertainment. The

ones who were stolen from captivity have to endure that never-ending nightmare, and the ones

that were captivity-born just have to accept that below average lifestyle.

Although captivity of wild animals is typically not the best lifestyle, there are few

exceptions where captivity can do good. Captivity for conservation plays a vital role in helping
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species remain off the endangered list. Most of these animals are captured for a brief period of

time, bred, and then released back into a similar environment where it is safer for their species to

live successfully. This form of conservation has shown extreme success when eleven tigers were

relocated to an area that was better suited for them and provided less access by poachers. These

lions successfully diversified and helped better populate the area (Yiu). This is the only

acceptable and reasonable excuse for when putting wild animals in captivity. This is to ensure

that they will either have a better life, or will save their species from extinction. This is not to

entertain humans or bring in revenue for zoos. Conserving, rehabilitating, and releasing animals

that are at risk should be the only reason we are keeping such animals in captivity.

There is only so much one can do to help this cause. Boycotting zoos and stopping

attendance to them is a small effort that is at low chance of any change happening. What needs to

be done is better protection laws for the animals that are already in the wild. Those are the ones

that need to be protected from being captured and paraded in zoos and circuses. Once those laws

are in place, we can start to slowly phase out these types of entertainment parks and put an end to

the suffering of animals in captivity. It is not something that can happen overnight, for throwing

captivity-born animals out into the wild is more inhumane than continuing their life in captivity.

But once those animals live out the rest of their life, zoos will be forced to close its doors and

put its money towards conservation and rehabilitation. This is what needs to be done to preserve

the rights of our beloved animals, and it can be done if we just all stand up for our four legged

friends. It is a good thing these animals can not talk, because they would of started this

conversation a long time ago.

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Work Cited

Bekoff, Marc. "Why Was Harambe the Gorilla in a Zoo in the First Place?" Scientific American
Blog Network. N.p., 31 May 2016. Web. 04 May 2017.

Smith, Laura. "Zoos Are Fun for People but Awful for Animals." Slate Magazine. N.p., 20 June
2014. Web. 04 May 2017.

Yiu, Sze-wing, et al. "Early Post-Release Movement of Reintroduced Lions (Panthera Leo) in
Dinokeng Game Reserve, Gauteng, South Africa." European Journal of Wildlife
Research, vol. 61, no. 6, 2015, pp. 861-870 Research Library,