Entertainment  > Nature vs. Zoos




Chimpanzees form close-knit families. Chimpanzee children stay with their mothers about eight years, usually helping care for younger siblings. Mothers and relatives are often shot to obtain babies for display. Only one in ten baby chimps survives the journey to the zoo.
The Andean condor soars for hours on rising currents of warm air. Birds' wings are clipped so they cannot fly.
Antelopes, deer and other ungulates naturally live in large herds or family groups. Animals are often kept alone or in pairs.
Elephants travel hundreds of miles, form life-long attachments, and have elaborate courtship and mourning rituals. Elephants spend more than 20 percent of their time engaging in neurotic, stress-induced behavior, such as repeated head-bobbing or biting cage bars.
Bears and other animals hibernate during the winter. Animals are kept on constant display. Bears spend about 30 percent of their time pacing, a sign of distress.
Giraffes run 35 miles an hour, ostriches run 40 miles an hour, and cheetahs can sprint up to 60 miles an hour. Animals pace about in a small space.

"Animal Times" -- Spring 1997
People for Ethical Treatment of Animals -- Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's President

I was watching CNN's Headline News when the story came on. A 3-year-old boy had fallen into the gorilla pit at the Brookfield Zoo in suburban Chicago. The way amateur video showed one of the adult apes quickly move down into the pit toward the unconscious boy. A gorilla's arms have the strength of ten men, their incisor's are three times as big as those of a rottweiler. The gorilla was making a beeline for the boy. Like everyone else in the TV audience, I stopped what I was doing and stared at Binti Jau, for that is the gorilla's name, bent over the boy and cradled his body in her arms. She was rescuing him! This is not for the first time such a thunderously powerful member of her species has shown what a soft heart lies beneath that mighty King Kong chest. Some years ago, a huge male silverback, the strongest of all primates, ran to protect another child who fell into gorilla exhibit on the island of Jersey, off the coast of France.


At Brookfield, the little boy's mother watched as Binti, a mother herself, picked the human child up and carried him awkwardly (for her own baby was still clinging to her) to waiting paramedics.


The world applauded, but will we return the favor and save Binti's own child? The answer is probably "no"! Binti's baby will be sold, swapped or loaned to another zoo, perhaps even shipped overseas. What will Binti think of us when we steal her child? He will have to spend his whole life in confinement. As social and intelligent and genetically close to us as gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans may be, they are afforded no right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. They are still treated as marketable goods to be displayed for human entertainment and torn from their loved ones at our whim.


Let's bring zoos into the '90s by turning them into desperately needed sanctuaries for the poor shackled elephants, bicycle-riding bears and neck-chained chimpanzees who are sold to hunting ranches or put in the back room to die when they are no longer young and pretty.


To be as kind as Binti, to protect her babies, we need to give zoos a very wide berth and a public thumbs-down. Until then, I will hate the zoos...