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Friday, February 26, 2010

Tilikum the Orca, Andrew Linzey, and zoos

Saw the story in the news about the Orca that killed his trainer (Killer whale experts say: Reintroduce Tilikum to the wild) and it made me think about zoos. I used to love zoos when I was a kid and I still feel a certain attraction. I've been many times to the San Francisco Zoo, the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park there too. I've also been to San Diego SeaWorld and seen the Orca show, though I haven't been to the Florida park where the trainer was killed by Tilikum.

- Tatiana, the Siberian tiger who attacked and killed someone at the San Francisco Zoo and who was shot dead

But zoos make me sad now because they seem like animal prisons. Of course, some zoos are better than others and some do research and conservation work, but even so, the conditions at many are horrendous. The bottom line is that zoos take animals from their natural habitats (or bead them in captivity) to use as objects of curiosity and entertainment, while we gobble up what was once their home.

Anglican priest, theology professor at Oxford, and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, Andrew Linzey, has little good to say of zoos (What are zoos for? BBC) ......

[...] As Professor Andrew Linzey, director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, says the real story is the plight of animals in zoos and Nuremberg is further evidence of the harm they cause. "When we've taken over their lives, made them dependent on us, and submitted them to an unnatural regime, we have a special moral responsibility for them," he says.

"The creation of dependency always involves direct duties. It's implausible to argue that just because it happens in nature, we should allow it to happen in an environment where we have artificially made them dependent on us," he adds. "If you really like polar bears and care for them and think they are an important part of the ecosystem then help to preserve their natural habitat. Zoos actually make a minuscule contribution to conservation."

- This chimpanzee was passed around five zoos before arriving in a Texas roadside zoo at the age of 37 - Wikipedia


Blogger Americas Best Zoos author said...

For those of you who don't like zoos, just don't go to them! Leave them alone for those of us who love them, and let them continue their necessary work of preserving endangered species.

Allen Nyhuis, Coauthor: America's Best Zoos

9:27 AM  
Blogger victor said...

Zoo or no zoo that is the question!

Depending on what side of the fence we're looking from "IT" can on occasions be hard to figure out what animals want or sometimes need. Take our cat "Tiger", my wife and I allow him to sleep at the foot of our bed every night. Last night after my wife and I were asleep, Tiger just kept scratching the rug and I honestly thought my wife had closed the door of our bedroom on him. He kept scratching the rug for a good few minutes and so out loud I asked my wife if she had closed the door on him. To make a long story short, the door was opened and I gave him a little hell and went back to bed.
To make another longer story short, he didn't stop licking my hand and bugging me so I did as his spirit asked, I got up and prayed for about half an hour and then went back to bed and believe "IT" or not, I never heard another sound out of him and when we got up he was cuddled at the foot of our bed. Go Figure Animals! :)


8:45 PM  
Anonymous Paul Maurice Martin said...

The way things are going - we're causing the greatest mass extinction of species since the asteroid did in the dinosaurs - it's pretty clear where we're headed.

It'll be a world where about the only animals around will be the ones we eat and keep for pets. My entire life people have talked, for example, about saving the world's tropical rain forests and nothing's happened except continuing to cut them down.

So although I feel exactly like you do about zoos vs. preserving habitat, in the end it looks like about the only wildlife there's going to be are those species that happen to be capable of surviving in our zoos. So with Allen, let's celebrate the zoo, I guess, sort of…

10:50 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks for the comment, and, um, commercial.

12:41 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I like hearing about Tiger. He reminds me of Kermit :)

12:43 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Yeah, it does seem like averice always wins out over altruism when it comes to other species and the environment. If only there could be more zoos that were wildlife parks where animals had semi-natural habitats.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

I do think that many zoos are getting better, as many of them do their best to creat a more natural habitat. But sometimes I've been a bit repulsed by seeing animals who clearly were not in good health, in cages that looked as sickly as the animal.

I've had the really good fortune to visit a game park in Malawi, as part of our sister parish relationship: Liwonde Natural Park. It's BEAUTIFUL. The animals are in the wild -- in fact, if they decide to leave the boundaries of the park, there wouldn't be much to stop them. (except that they'd be hunted!) Check out this link:

2:02 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny,

Thanks for the link. It looks beautiful there. The closest I've come to a park like that is the one in San Diego, but it's not anywhere near as nice.

2:17 PM  

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