Monash University Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
2 Jun 2016 129 Respondents
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By Amanda Lees
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The killing of Harambe, the silverback gorilla, at the Cincinnati Zoo has sparked a massive global media debate.

As reported in The Atlantic: 'By now, most people know how this played out. The boy’s mother had lost track of him, long enough that he crawled over a wall and fell 10 feet into a moat at the bottom. Harambe stood over the child, as if protecting him from the people yelling above, then grabbed the boy’s arm and jerked him through the water. Tranquilizing the gorilla wasn’t an option, the zoo director would later say, because the sedative takes time. And no one could predict how a drugged animal that weighs 450 pounds would react. So they shot Harambe dead.' http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/06/harambe-zoo/485084/?utm_source=atltw 

The events at Cincinnati Zoo have the internet abuzz with all manner of questions - should Harambe have been shot? Why can't the gorilla have been tranqulized? Why was the mother not supervising her son more closely? 

The wider debate though, centres on the role of zoos. Should we have zoos and are they justified?

Opinions are polarised.

'Zoos as institutions are deeply problematic' claims writer Laurel Braitman. She challenges her readers to reassess the way humans keep animals in unnatural habitats, arguing that these conditions are leading to animal madness. Of all habitats she claims zoos are the worst example, with repeptitive behaviours within the confines of the zoo leading to animal psychosis, or 'zoochosis'. Braitman claims that many zoos regularly administer antipsychotics to the animals to manage behaviour associated with an enclosed life. Read more here:  nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11279349

On the other hand in this article from The Conversation:  https://theconversation.com/in-defence-of-zoos-how-captivity-helps-conservation-56719  the merits of zoos in relation to their conservation efforts and accomplishments are outlined. As the article argues, many species rely on captive breeding for their survival:

'Modern zoos aim to promote animal conservation, educate people, and support further wildlife research. The three are entwined to ensure the animals are housed to the highest possible standards of welfare. Staff are dedicated to providing species-specific housing, appropriate diets and husbandry to ensure that the animals’ lives are as natural as possible within captivity...most zoo animals, including Harambe the gorilla, have been born and bred in captivity. They have never experienced “the wild”, which many people assume is a wonderful and safe place, despite destruction of natural habitats for palm oil, threats from  climate change or the increase in poaching.'

Arguments for and against.

Is there sufficient justification for zoos?

What do you think?

It is proposed that zoos should be phased out