Last week my mum took me to the Sydney Aquarium. That day out made me rethink of all the wonderful memories I had there as a child; How could I have been allowed to have watched these animals live and suffer in such conditions? Why did the trainers lie to me when they would say the dolphins were sleeping? Why had I been so naïve?
At 21-years-old, I was heart broken to watch a dugong slam into the clear wall of his confinement. At 21-years-old, I was left standing there shocked as I saw the penguins fur dismantled with scratches. At 21-years-old, I knew that these animals weren’t healthy. And at 21-years-old, I know I wont ever return.
Yesterday was more evidence as to why I wouldn’t return, as the local Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, announced the closing of the centre after 50 years. The attraction will be closing after the ageing building has been recorded to be “too expensive to replenish.” They will now be looking for new homes for 107 sharks and rays, 2000 fish, 500 invertebrates, 19 penguins and 11 reptiles…a good option would be setting them free, but hey, they haven’t suffered enough and most will be located to Sydney Harbour Aquarium.
As a child, I fell in love with animals like ‘Babe’ the pig, and deer like ‘Bambi’ ; as an adolescent my admiration for animals grew more as I watched ‘Marley and Me’ and cried for the death of the dog; and as an adult, it has changed to cooing at any chance to see a child terrorise a small kitten. In the end, half of us have owned, held, and loved an animal; and half of us have watched them devastatingly leave.
But still, as kids, as teenagers, and as an adult; we will take any chance to visit the zoo and watch wild animals conform to new environments and suffer in solitude; just for our own entertainment. So what is the difference between keeping a domestic animal in the captivity of our home, and keeping a wild animal in the confinement of four walls? Why is keeping a dog locked in a house, different from keeping a lion in a cage? Both have a different nature, but both need to experience freedom.
“Our power and ingenuity entitles us to violate the natural order by tearing animals from the fabric of their ecosystems and displaying them in an “order” of our own making.”
Randy Malamud continues to argue that:
“Zoos not only contribute to the rapid disintegration of our ecosystems, but also deaden our very sensibilities to constraint, spatial disruption, and physical pain.”
Last week for example, Dubbo zoo marked the end of an era for the African Elephant species in Australia. ‘Cuddles’ had arrived in 1977 from the United Kingdom and had already been estimated to be 46 years old, and has been within the walls of the zoo since. It has taken this devastating death for the zoo to now say that they have no plans to replenish its African elephant population…instead, now focusing on its Asian elephant program……….
The way we used to worship animals has turned into a way we entertain, describe, and word ourselves. From naming footballs teams to punny sentences, we have not only disrupted human nature, but borrowed an animals identity and essence, just to give an inaccurate regard of what they’re really like.
A great example of humans ruining the identity of an animal is the documentary, ‘Black Fish’. The movie tells the story of the sea orcas, one in particular called Tilikum, that have been held within the walls of Sea World. Along the way, the completion of footage of the orcas killings and the trainer’s interviews, explores the creatures true nature and the cruel treatment in captivity.
“It’s time to stop the shows. It’s time to stop forcing the animals to perform in basically a circus environment, and they should release the animals that are young enough and healthy enough to be released,” Berg says in the movie. “And the animals like Tilikum, who are old and sick and have put in 25 years in the industry, should be released to an open ocean pen.”
So when does it all end? when the last animal in captivity dies? Because just like humans, animals feel emotion, and just like humans; they need to be set free.