Zoos and Euthanasia
Most people will be surprised to learn that it is the Good zoos which euthanize some of their animals and the Bad zoos do not.
Good zoos manage their Species populations responsibly through cooperative breeding programmes with the aim of maintaining healthy genetically viable populations which may be released to the wild at some future date.
Bad zoos simply breed their animals and if they fail to cull the unwanted ones they pass them on to some equally irresponsible bad zoo or so called ‘sanctuary’.
The subject of euthanasia in good zoos is raised every time an item appears in the press or on TV. Rarely is any attempt made to understand why it is being done and frequently the quiet and kind cull is described using terms like ‘murdered’ or ‘destroyed’ or worse. The more dramatic the act is made to sound then a greater number of newspapers will be sold.
People will often say “I thought zoos were about caring and saving animals, not about killing them ”. Without question good zoos do care for their animals, every last one of them. They are about saving animals too. What needs to be realised is that good zoos are about is caring for Species and they do that through caring for Specimens. The Specimens are managed and maintained by the Zoo Keepers who are probably the most dedicated of any employees in any profession anywhere. Zoo Keepers care! They love the animals they work with. They lose sleep over them. They really care. They also understand.
The good zoos are only a small part of the wider zoo world. The good zoos are the ones which are committed to conservation, to education and to the preservation of Species. The good zoos might not be as wealthy as some of the commercially exploitative bad zoological collections. It is the good zoos however which manage their collections cooperatively and face up to responsibilities required to maintain species long term. Bad zoos do not.
The decision to euthanize or cull any animal in a good zoo is never taken lightly. Often the decision may not be theirs to make but that of the person managing the species. That person has been appointed by the species management committee to make the decision on their behalf. Zoos euthanize to imitate nature and maintain a balance. Many animals in the wild would never see their first birthday. The wild is a cruel place and takes no prisoners. In the wild a roughly equal balance of males and females are born. It is the same in captivity except here the males do not fight to the death. In captivity they do not suffer lingering deaths from infected sparring wounds or worse. In captivity the numbers are maintained by good people who care.
Good zoos will join the official breeding programmes for the species which they hold. They sign a document called a ‘Memorandum of Participation’ which, in a way signs away some of their rights of ownership of the animal. This is done so that the species can be more effectively managed. The animals are then part of a vast conglomerate, a case of not having all your eggs in one basket. Animals are moved from zoo to zoo on breeding loans at the instruction of the Species Coordinator. He/She will tell which zoo should breed and which should not. The numbers have to be managed as there is only a limited number of available spaces in captivity. Good zoos do not sell their surplus animals. Good zoos do not give their animals away to second rate bad zoos or the so called ‘sanctuaries’ and ‘rescue centre’ which are in reality just zoos using a different name.
The vast proportion of animals in collections outside of the good zoos contribute little or nothing to conservation. They may claim that they are and that they are saving animals. This may well be true. They are saving animals but they are not saving species. What exactly are these non cooperating zoos saving these animals for? They are saving them so that they can line their pockets at the animal’s expense. The vast number of generic mixed breed Tigers are a case in point. They and the deliberately produced White Tigers will never ever be part of an official breeding programme or part of any re-introduction scheme. Beautiful as they may be these animals are effectively useless. These second rate establishment may often claim a breeding programme. No, they are breeding but that effectively means producing young but has no connection with a Breeding Programme. This irresponsible breeding of unneeded animals is actually harming species in captivity. It takes up much need spaces which could effectively be used for genuine sincere conservation breeding programmes. Not only that but these surplus sub-specific hybrid tigers are responsible for the death of thousands of cattle, donkeys, horses and chickens each year. These are being especially killed to feed animals that are doing nothing but lining their irresponsible owners pockets.
To give an example here of just one collection. The Sri Racha Tiger Zoo in Thailand keeps and constantly breeds generic Tigers. These tigers are not part of a breeding programme. They are absolutely no value to a breeding programme either now or in the future. None of these tigers will ever be released into the wild. They continue to breed Tigers because they need the cubs for photography sessions. There are dozens of tigers being hand reared at any one time. Nobody knows or admits to where the Tigers eventually disappear to. In July 2009 they had 400 Tigers. Each Tiger could be expected to eat 7 Kg meat, 6 days a week for 52 weeks of the year. So this one collection is using 873,600 Kg of meat (cattle, donkeys, horses and chickens) each year to keep an essentially conservation valueless collection alive. There are several other collections of equal size in China and hundreds of smaller ones around the world. It is wrong.
Euthanasia is not cruel or unkind. It does not hurt and when done quickly it is simply like going to sleep. The people who perform the tasks in good zoos do it because they care. There is no torture or abuse or experimentation involved. Euthanasia is a kindly death.
The Euthanasia of zoo animals should be more acceptable than the 'putting to sleep' of unwanted Dogs, Cats and Gerbils. Not because that is unkind either but because zoos do far less culling. It should too be more acceptable than the slaughter of millions of animals each year to provide we humans with our food.
Zoos, Good Zoos Care!
For some odd reason there is a segment of society who will state that as vegetarians they are against the killing of all animals. There are many zoo keepers who are vegetarians. These zoo keeping vegetarians will butcher, prepare meat and occasionally kill or cull. They face up to the fact and can see the greater picture. Nobody is being cruel or unkind because they care.
Nobody has a monopoly on caring but, without a shadow of a doubt the staff in Good Zoos are at the top of the pile in caring for animals.
The continuation and maintenance of the worlds rarest species is in the hands of the good zoos. The zoos which manage. Zoos which breed to a cooperative genetically sound plan. Culling is part of that plan. It goes hand in hand with contraception, breeding separation, bachelor herds and the frozen zoo.
Contraception cannot be used all of the time as it has been shown in some cases to cause permanent damage and in some animals and may actually cause sterility. Whether animals are actually needed or not it is important to know that they are capable of breeding and of rearing young. So sometimes they are allowed to breed and, at that time in the animal’s life that it would naturally leave its mother the animal will be euthanized. Kindly and quickly and without stress or harm.
Of course the young will sometimes be needed and there will be spaces available in another good zoo and so the young will move there. Sadly there often is not the space available. There are not enough good zoos involved in the cooperative breeding programmes. Hundreds, if not thousands of spaces in non cooperating (bad) zoos around the world are taken up by hybrid, genetically questionable and generic animals which are effectively useless for conservation.
Within the properly managed breeding programme, hand rearing should be avoided at all costs. There is sometimes a place for it but it is the exception rather than the rule. Breeding takes place to increase managed numbers but also allow the dam, or parents to learn how to rear and take care of young. In some cases too the older siblings take part in the rearing too and it is important that they learn that role. Probably the most important and enriching part of an animals life is rearing young and it should be allowed wherever possible. Sadly, the young are sometimes not needed for the breeding programme. A quiet and kind cull at the best appropriate time is the answer. There is no malice but there is forethought. There is no suffering.
Good Zoos Care!