Animals in Captivity vs.
Animals in the Wild
Kah Ying Choo
One of the key problems with placing
animals in captivity is the fact that the typical development of their
authentic being is arrested at all levels. Although scientists
working with animals in captivity claim that the needs of these
creatures are satisfied, they have failed to acknowledge the adverse
impact of the deficiencies of the physical and social environment on the
quality of life of these animals.
For example, orcas and dolphins in the
wild exhibit high intelligence, a strong need for social interaction and
intense activity. The challenging environment in the ocean propels
them to exercise their physical and mental
|prowess constantly. In contrast, the
typical physical and mental activity of dolphins in aquariums is limited
by the static quality of the environment and the size of the tanks.
Essentially, the orcas and dolphins are living in prisons (Animal
Protection Institute, 2000, p. 1).
Another negative side-effect associated with
the physical environment provided to dolphins in captivity
has been found in the study of echolocation in captivity. Unlike
the ocean that has softer sounds covering a wider bandwidth, dolphins in
captivity often become deaf when they are exposed to the excessive
concentration of sounds in the aquariums. Concomitantly, their
ability to function normally is also affected (Ellis, 1982; Harrison et
Moreover, animals in the wild such as dolphins
and orcas co-exist in distinctive groups and forge strong and
enduring bonds with one another, which can last for as long as ten
years. Within each of these groups, or pods, the family members
communicate with one another with their own unique vocalizations.
On the other hand, in captivity, the development of social organizations
among the dolphins is undermined by the fact that family members can be
traded and sold to other aquariums. Some dolphins are
separated from their mothers when they are only six months old, thus
preventing them from experiencing a typical social life (Animal
Protection Institute, 2000, p. 1). In addition, different
species of dolphins that have different social organizations and habits
are restricted to the choice of their tank mates without the possibility
of seeking out members of their own species.
Without the opportunity to learn social
organizations and habits, many animals in captivity are
unable to nurture or care for the young. In the case of
chimpanzees, wild female chimps acquire their nurturing skills from
their mothers and other female relatives within their social group.
However, young chimps that have grown up in captivity do not have the
opportunities to learn from their wild-born relatives. More
adapted to human ways, these female chimps have lost their natural
propensity and skills to care for their own young (Rock, 1995, p. 71).
||Therefore, animals in
captivity are affected by extreme boredom, lack of
appropriate exercise, poor quality food and a lack of variety of food,
especially in poorly run facilities. Since the development of
their natural instincts and typical behavior has been stifled
prematurely, animals in captivity that are released are unable to
function normally in the wild. Animals in captivity that are used
to being fed with dead fish and meat by trainers are unable to eat live
Unaware of the social organization that
exist in the wild, dolphins and orcas that attempt to join pods of
animals of a different species are often attacked. In fact,
the mortality rate of the released captive animals is 15 percent (Ellis,
1982; Harrison et al., 1994). While this fact can be used to
support the captivity of animals, it
|testifies to the tragedy of animals in
captivity, which have lost their connection to their authentic being and
identity at every level.
Because they are deprived of their natural
environment, social interaction and typical activity, animals
in captivity often divert their energies and anxiety into stereotypical
behavior that are not evident in animals in the wild (Animal Protection
Institute, 2000, p. 2). For example, tigers in the wild
typically spend ten hours of the day hunting and monitoring their
territory. However, their circus counterparts that are
unable to perform these activities are forced to replace the typical
physical activity by pacing their cages in order to release their
energy. In their study, Nevill and Friend discovered that
only by providing circus tigers with opportunities for exercise did the
amount of pacing decrease (cited in Chenault, 2002, p. 2).
The above discussion has illuminated the tragic consequences of
suppressing the typical development of animals by placing them in
captivity. Deprived of their natural environment and social
groupings, these creatures are unable to learn in a way that will help
them achieve their full potential and realize their authentic being.
Instead, their natural activity is transformed into stereotypical
behavior such as the tigersí pacing of their cages or unpredictable
eruptions of aggression by circus elephants. I believe
these concepts can be extrapolated to young school children who are
trapped not only within the physical confines of the school classroom,
but also its oppressive rules and expectations, thus preventing them
from achieving their human potential.
Animal Protection Institute (2000, April). Serving a life
sentence: orcas and dolphins in captivity. Retrieved August 19, 2002,
Chenault, E. A. (2002, July 2). Hold that tiger: research studies
circus tigersí behavior, environment. AgNews. Retrieved August
19, 2002, from
Ellis, R. (1982). Dolphins and porpoises. New York: Alfred
& Knopf, Inc.
Harrison, R., et al. (1994). Whales, dolphins and porpoises.
New York: Facts on File, Inc.
Rock, M. (1995, March). Human Ďmomsí teach chimps itís all in the
family. Smithsonian, 25(12), 70-75.
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