The practice of keeping animals in captivity for exhibition has been around for centuries. It is definitely not a new concept but rather an inherited one. The first zoo was created around 1500BC in Egypt. Many others were established between 1000 and 400BC in a bid to show power and wealth. One of the most prominent European zoos was established in 1204 in the Tower of London. With exploration of foreign lands being of high importance to the rulers of many countries, especially in Europe, so did the interest in foreign animals increase.
Animals were then transported by ships from far off lands to newly created menageries and zoos. One can just imagine the antiquated methods of capture, transport and housing these animals had to endure. The oldest existing zoo is the Vienna Zoo in Austria which was established in 1752. From this era the establishment of zoos multiplied. Animals housed in these ‘facilities' were there purely for the enjoyment of visitors. Not only were animals displayed, but humans to. This practice only being stopped in 1958.
In the 1970's conservation became a buzzword and some zoos started becoming more focused on this subject and started phasing out performing animals and started breeding rare and endangered animals. Living conditions and treatment of animals also started to improve in some facilities.
It is unfortunately the case that many zoos have not kept up with the times and continue to hold animals in unacceptable conditions. What further compounds the problem is that permits issued and nature conservation Ordinances regulating these facilities have for the most part never been updated. This then means that many of these facilities are legally allowed to keep animals in antiquated conditions. Even many of the newly promulgated Acts rely on the old Ordinances as a guideline, again allowing pre 1970 ideas to creep into the 21st Century.
Most of us think only of big public facilities when we hear the words animals in captivity and forget about the smaller facilities that abound in the country. How many of us think about the animals held at roadside fuel stations acting as a draw card to sell that extra litre of petrol. Have you given a thought to how you feel after inhaling fumes, they are confined there 24 hours each day.
What about the petting farms where the animals draw you in to sell an extra tray of seedlings. Those animals don't have the advantage of headache tablets when the touching and screeching becomes unbearable. They say that moving house is one of the most stressful occurrences in a humans life, yet we quite happily pay to see animals that have been transported around the country for so called entertainment or education and never actually knowing where home is.
The Wildlife Unit attempts to improve the living conditions of all animals being held in captivity by interacting with individual facilities, associations and government regulatory departments. It is very often an unrewarding task as prehistoric mindsets, the greed for money and worst of all the public's willingness to financially support below standard facilities prevail. In time we will win and the lives of these helpless creatures will be improved.
Updated: 26 January 2012