Let’s take a moment off to travel virtually to a pseudo world. Imagine being under house arrest. No friends. No family. No freedom of movement. For a day. For a couple of days. A couple of weeks. Maybe even years. Your will is curbed to an extent that you finally forget who you really are. You wait there, caged, helpless, for what seems like eternity, till hope gives way to dismay and you lose yourself in the void.
Lets travel a little further to go where strangers come to meet you, every single day, to see how well you behave under these unnatural circumstances. It would have been a good thing to have some company, except that they seem to converse in a language that’s alien to you. What’s worse? They find your incarceration thoroughly entertaining. Your provocation, your irritation, even your indifference is engaging.
I call this brutal world ‘The Zoo’.
This concept has its genesis in a fact that we tend to forget, or we rather neglect the verity that this planet rightfully belongs to every living thing, as much as it belongs to us. After sentencing the entire ecosystem to death, we take it upon ourselves to ‘protect’ and ‘conserve’ biodiversity, by caging these animals, keeping them in a home that’s far from home and subjecting them to public display.
Zoo animals tend to display an obsessive, repetitive and unnatural behaviour, termed as zoochosis. This can even lead them to the extent of self mutilation! Forget animals, even humans when subject to such levels of boredom and frustration for an endless stretch of time will hit the road to depression. The reasons for rising death tolls in the recent years are many, negligence being the most important one. Animals dying due to depression, improper food and water, unhealthy environment, lack of proper infrastructure, cruel visitors, disease and not to mention, animals dying under mysterious circumstances. To mention a few, Asia’s largest zoo, Chhatbir Zoo does not even have one on-site veterinarian, although two are required by law. In 2001, at Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad a tiger was killed by poachers. At the Prince of Wales Zoological Garden, Lucknow, within five months, 23 animals died. The number of such incidents is innumerable and the list is endless!
This is an issue discussed by all and sundry probably ever since such a concept evolved. It will continue being discussed till there’s a solution. And mere discussion is not a solution. It’s time to process the discussions into actions before it’s too late. The solution is not as simple as boycotting zoos. There has to be a fundamental change in our attitudes towards the environment in which we live. There’s a need to redefine and revive our morals and ethics.
Are zoos actually preventing species extinction, or are they accelerating the rate? The very act of caging them contradicts the term ‘wild’. As we continue issuing death sentences to these animals, the question still remains…What was their crime?