The Zoo Keepers Part in the Illegal Animal Trade
Stored away in a chest in another country is another life. Photographs of family. Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, holidays, children, friends and pets. Happy memories of people and animals I have loved.
As someone who has spent almost my entire working life in zoos these photographs inevitably include large carnivores, primates and other species I have through necessity hand reared. These were not just animals...these were family! They were sleepless nights of baby bottles, bottom washes and nappy changes. These were labours of love for creatures which will forever be in my memories and my heart. These truly were family. Happy times.
Social Media Advertising
There is nothing wrong with such photos. They are 'family' after all. Where they go wrong is when they are posted on Social Media. As zookeepers we know that our striped and hairy family members can be cuddled, kissed and played with. Generations of keepers have done the same. There is nothing clever about what we do.
Why then do we post on Social Media? How many of us have a photo of ourselves with a big cat or primate as our profile picture?
The moment such photos appear they act as advertisements. Other people, outsiders, see these and want the experience and are prepared to pay for it. Some species lend themselves to such activities but others do not. Here I am talking about All big cats and All primates.
Monkeys are NOT suitable pets.
Zookeepers posting photographic posing 'adverts' on Facebook, LinkedIn and other Social Media are indirectly promoting the barbaric and illegal trade in these animals. Think about it. Care.
Such is the power of advertising. Don't believe me? Scan your way through Facebook. Wherever you find a photo of someone (perhaps one of you) posing with a big cat or primate look down the comments below. "Wow", "Amazing", "Jealous", "I want to do that".
And do that they will.....the moment the opportunity arises.
As it should be
Keep Your Photos in a Box
Some may argue that these animals HAD to be hand reared so why not take photos. Again I have no argument with this....just with the photos being used as accidental adverts. Keep the photos. Hang them on your walls at home.
Then there are the zoos themselves getting so called celebrities to pose with their tiger cubs. It is still wrong. Very wrong. Showing off photographs of cubs that were removed for that "essential" medical is equally bad but isn't bad at all if it doesn't include grinning zoo staff.
What Are You Trying To Prove?
You have to ask yourself why? Why do you need to show off such photos? What are you trying to prove? Your 'share' is a bad move. It isn't clever.
Then you have to realise that these photos are causing harm. They are directly contributing to the tiger trade, to canned hunting of lions, to Chimpanzees, Orangutans, Gibbons being killed to provide the babies as pets to the Arabian Gulf states.
Mother and child is best
Tiger Bone Wine
There is an immense choice of places which are churning out tiger cubs so that 'Joe Public' can play with them. I will mention just three. SriRacha Tiger Zoo, The Tiger Temple and Tiger Kingdom. Cubs are produced, they grow up and ultimately sneak out the back door to end up as tiger bone wine. Denied of course..."They were sent to other zoos". They weren't though because so many other zoos are breeding them, they don't have space. The trade is not properly regulated. Removal of microchips and placing them in other animals is as easy as pie.
It is not just Asia. There are places in the US, Australasia and other countries also. Cubs being deliberately pulled from their mothers for hand rearing. The excuse that they were removed because of problems can mostly be attributed to inadequate facilities and poor husbandry.....or because they need the cubs for visitors to pet.
The best regulated zoos need to stop their posing opportunities as they give out the message that it is okay....and it isn't. The bad zoos will copy...and they do. They will continue to do so until we set an example. Only then can we truly condemn the practice.
Stolen infants for sale
It Isn't Just Big Cats
Then there are the Orangutans. Taman Safari and its satellite collections, SriRacha (again) and so many many others. Seemingly ageless groups of animals forced to take part in Boxing matches in Bangkok Safari Zoo and in Cambodia at Koh Kong Safari World.
You really have to think about the harm we are doing.
It is not the first time I have presented this argument. I don't expect everyone to agree with me but I would ask that they think about it....and No, I am not jealous of your photos, I have my own of animals I loved. To be sure though you will never see any of them posted on Social Media. Not by my hand.