POLL: Should wild animals be kept in zoos?

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London has denied rumours that the that escaped from its enclosure on Thursday evening did so by smashing a window.

Malcolm Fitzpatrick, senior curator of mammals for the zoo, said “categorically … that our male Kumbuka did not break through any glass”.

But he repeatedly rebuffed questions over how the animal got into his keepers’ area, telling BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that the incident was being investigated.

Silverback Gorillas – Photo by National Geographic

“It’s a full investigation that we are carrying out at present,” he said. “The incident was dealt with very professionally at the time. The gorilla did not leave the secure keeper area.”

Visitors and staff were locked into buildings during the incident, which began at 5.15pm on Thursday, lasting for about an hour before Kumbuka was tranquilised by vets and returned to his enclosure.

The Born Free Foundation said the incident was a “startling reminder” of the risks of keeping dangerous wild animals in captivity.

Fitzpatrick denied reports that the was aggressive and frustrated, after Buzzfeed quoted one zoo source who said Kumbuka had smashed the glass of his enclosure “a number of times”, and described the animal as a “fucking psycho”.

“He’s a lovely animal. He’s a gentle giant, and our visitors know how well he interacts with his children, his two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son,” he said. “Male gorillas are impressive animals. They do a form of display behaviour where they will bang tree trunks, they will bang a window to show how impressive they are and show off to the females in the troop.”

He denied it was cruel to keep large primates in enclosures, and pointed to the zoo’s conservation work to reintroduce the Partula snail, which was extinct in the wild, to French Polynesia following a breeding programme at London zoo.

Visitors to the zoo described fearing for their safety as they were ordered to take cover in buildings when the 184kg (29-stone) male ape got out of its den.

Armed police were deployed, but a zoo official said members of the public were never in any danger.

The Born Free Foundation called for an inquiry and for the expert committee, the government advisory body, to investigate the safety and welfare of great apes in UK .

Chris Draper, associate director for animal welfare and care at the foundation, said: “While we are relieved that this incident apparently ended without injury to visitors or to the gorilla, it is yet another startling reminder of the risks associated with maintaining dangerous wild animals in captivity.”

The foundation, which campaigns for zoos to be phased out, called on the government to increase penalties for attractions if they are found to have put visitors or animals at risk.

There were no reports of injuries in Thursday’s incident and Fitzpatrick said Kumbuka was later seen “up and grumbling and interacting with the rest of his gorilla family”.

Fitzpatrick would not confirm if keepers were in the area at the time and said only a “handful” of people were in the public viewing zone.

He said: “At no time were any of our visitors in any danger. The gorilla did not get out of the safe space. There were only about 100 visitors.”

Jonathan Mall, a neuropsychologist, was at a conference at the zoo and saw at least 20 people armed with guns arrive at the exhibits after the alarm was raised.

The 33-year-old, from Hamburg in Germany, and other visitors were forced to hide inside a bird attraction for about half an hour. He said: “I was kind of scared, to be honest, because we were in a really closed space where everything is green and beautiful but there could be a gorilla hiding behind every bush.”

According to the zoo’s website, Kumbuka is one of at least seven gorillas living in its Gorilla Kingdom. The £5m section was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2007, the largest investment at the zoo for 40 years.

The same year there were warnings that animals could escape unless security was improved. A report said that although it had no concerns about animal enclosures, in the circumstances of a dangerous animal escaping it was “unlikely” the existing perimeter fence would be sufficient to contain them.

It warned that if they escaped there would be nothing to stop them roaming free, and marksmen with tranquilliser darts would have little time to react. The year before, 12 squirrel monkeys had escaped from their enclosure.

In May, a 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla called Harambe was shot dead by keepers at Cincinnati zoo in the US after he grabbed a four-year-old boy who fell into a moat.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 14 Oct 2016.


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TurtleNekBooySavage
TurtleNekBooySavage

Animals should not be locked up in zoos because that is not what animals were meant for on this earth.

Theresa Kemp
Theresa Kemp

We all, animal and human, have only a short life on this earth. Some humans are incarcerated for part or all of their lives because of their own stupidity but the animal world is sadly mostly controlled by humans and many are born into slavery and live much shorter lives because of it. Mankind needs to sort itself out and learn to adapt to living alongside wildlife which in return will sort the world out as nature intended. Being born into captivity and being unable to fly or trek the miles a day it should, unable to feel safe it… Read more »

Karina
Karina

No

JJ White
JJ White

“We can judge the heart of man by his treatment of animals.” ~ Immanual Kant

We can learn everything we want about the animals of earth via photos, films, media… Or go visit a humane working farm if you desire, but we must always respect others, whether human or non-human.

Jutta Maue Kay

NO!!!!

Charlotte Patterson
Charlotte Patterson

NO NO NO!!!! NOT EVEN ONE ANIMAL ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH BE IN A ZOO OR CAGED ANYWHERE!!! THAT IS MEAN N CRUEL N BARBARIC!!! LTHEM BE FREE AS GOS INTENDED FOR THEM TOO BE!!!

Darren J
Darren J

I don’t personally think it’s right wild animals being kept in zoos but if we didn’t have the zoos to protect the majority of wild animals in them, then our animals would be becoming endangered to extinct at an even faster pace and that is already happening to fast

Anda V Johanna
Anda V Johanna

animals are protected in SANCTUARIES, in zoos are abuse, not well cared for, exploited, their presence used for bringing money

Phil D
Phil D

If all the world’s zoos closed down tomorrow, many species would go extinct. Przewalski’s Horse, Pere David’s Deer, Scimitar-Horned Oryx, Black-footed Ferret, Californian Condor, Hawaiian Crow and a number of Partula snails, African cichlids and Neotropical amphibians only remain on this planet due to captive breeding. And this is going to become even more important due to the increased pressure on habitats. Zoos are, unfortunately, the last resort. Not to mention the research and educational benefits (I remember at school a friend of mine, who had never been to a zoo and seen an elephant, telling me that it was… Read more »

Anda V Johanna
Anda V Johanna

‘If all the world’s zoos closed down tomorrow, many species would go’… guess where?! TO SANCTUARIES. The only real places where they would not go extinct, but they’d be really taken care of, free and happy. As for the research & educationsl benefits, they’d be much greater and best in a sanctuary, where the animals could be seen in an environment and in conditions closest to the wild/to their natural state [if returning the animal into the wild would not be an option anymore]. Mentioning what a friend of yours or a thousand, for that matter, said in regards to… Read more »

NordbergValerie

I particularly enjoyed the bit about “the Conservation work the zoo has done in re-wilding the Partular snail which had gone extinct…”! Worth keeping wild animals captive for spectacular work like this.

Robert Piller
Robert Piller

WITH THE CURRENT POLICIES WWF. AND GREENPEACE HAVE OF KILLING EVERYTHING OFF, CAPTIVE BREEDING REMAINS THE ONLY WAY OF SAVING THEM FROM DISAPPEARING ALTOGETHER. ALTHOUGH I AGREE ALL IRRESPONSIBLE ZOOS, WHICH IS MANY OF THEM, NEED SHUTTING DOWN.

Anda V Johanna
Anda V Johanna

Breeding can and has been done outside zoos also. Zoos are cruel places, full stop. In sanctuaries animals can breed and certain endangered species can be bred as well. Why does so few people know about animal sanctuaries? marine sanctuaries, etc. It is 21st century: zoos should be abolished/banned. Same goes for animal circuses, travelling zoos, touristic resorts using animals for profit, marine/aqua parks, etc. SANCTUARIES people, learn about them and support them if you really care about animals.

Heather
Heather

Zoo’s should be banned. It is cruel to keep animals locked up.

Swati Shanti

There should be no zoos anywhere in the world.