In the United States, more than 150 million people visit zoos and aquariums a year. From San Diego to Singapore, wild animals can be enjoyed by people all over the world. For centuries, onlookers have disagreed on whether or not captivity is beneficial or harmful for the untamed creatures people may not be able to enjoy otherwise.
Kidnapping animals from the wild, where they have spent all of their lives, and imprisoning them is inexcusable. If, however, they are born into captivity, are injured, or have a greater risk of being killed, captivity is a blessing and a safe haven for these prodigious creatures.
In the film industry, captivity is portrayed to a degree that conflicts with the truth. Films such as Free Willy, Mighty Joe Young, and even Finding Nemo display the message that animals deserve their freedom. In this case, captivity is revealed to be a prison where animals are mistreated. Hollywood, however, is a different world that rarely gives note to reality.
Despite what onlookers and critics believe, captivity allows wild animals to enjoy a different quality of life. They are given enrichment—the act of enhancing their prowess and teaching them new techniques—which builds their intellectual capabilities. Performances and other types of recreation help them stay active, healthy, and entertained.
Enclosures have evolved positively through the years. Rather than having iron bars and concrete slabs, animals are allowed a more original enclosure that relates to their natural habitat, providing a more stimulating environment for their own comfort and happiness. Through such design, they are more capable of exercising their natural instincts.
In recent years, animals have been mistreated, hunted, and killed in the wild. Fur, ivory, and meat are typical reasons some of the most beautiful creatures in the world are losing their lives. In captivity, they are protected and their species is preserved. Janice Haley, animal lover and owner to two Bengal tigers, argues that “people who consider it cruel to keep animals in captivity have a point to a point. It is not the ideal place for a tiger to be in a cage. But at this point in the wild, there isn’t a lot of hope out there for them anymore and if there aren’t some of them still left in cages, there aren’t going to be any left at all in a couple of years from now…they are provided for and loved here.” Captivity is a form of rehabilitation as well as different lifestyle; instead of letting the world lose beautiful generations of animals, they are preserving them.
Other animals are sick and unable to take care of themselves. In the wild, they would be free, but also left to die without a chance at survival. Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Northern California has a number of animals that were found sick and injured in the wild; left on their own, they would have eventually died. Today, however, all of these animals are loved, healthy, and perform in various shows and programs.
Animal activist advocates will argue that animals are better off dead in the wild than alive in captivity. From an unbiased perspective, however, life is life. Animals shouldn’t be left to die when they can be taken care of and experience a different lifestyle.
Animals are creatures who simply want to live and to be loved. Whether they are living in the wild or captivity, as long as they are receiving both, nothing else matters.
This article was written by McKenna Vietti, a writer for dusk magazine.