Last December, three red pandas broke out of China’s Hangzhou Zoo. Two of them were quickly caught and returned to their prison cell at the zoo. The third, however, made a run for it. Why?
Because animals kept in zoos are denied everything that makes their lives meaningful. Every aspect of their lives is controlled and manipulated. They have virtually no choice about what or when they eat, whom they mate with, or whom they share space with. These red pandas are housed in cages at Hangzhou Zoo that don’t come close to resembling the forests that are their natural homes.
These pandas will spend the rest of their lives behind bars to bring paying customers through the zoo’s gates.
Wouldn’t you want to run away from a place like this and never return, just like these red pandas?
Sadly, the third red panda was recently found and caught, after eight months on the run, only to be returned to his prison cell at the Hangzhou Zoo.
— SCMP News (@SCMP_News) August 5, 2016
The red panda was resting on a tree branch one afternoon when zoo staff captured him. They tried to lure him with apples while holding a large net under the tree. When the panda refused to fall for their sly tactics, the zoo staff shot the defenseless animal with a tranquilizer gun.
This isn’t the first time that animals have escaped from zoos. Earlier this year, a chimpanzee made headlines after he escaped from a zoo in Japan. A dramatic two-hour chase through the streets of Sendai ended in a heartbreaking scene, as the chimpanzee plummeted from power lines after being shot with a tranquilizer gun.
It’s clear that animals don’t want to be held captive to entertain annoying crowds and noisy children.
The argument that zoos are educational doesn’t cut it, either. Seeing stressed, depressed, and often insane animals pacing, swaying, or circling constantly teaches visitors nothing about normal animal behavior—we certainly wouldn’t take our children to a prison in order to teach them about human behavior. They can learn far more valuable and inspiring lessons by watching nature documentaries or IMAX movies that show wild animals where they belong or by going on virtual field trips.
What You Can Do
As long as people continue to buy tickets to zoos, animals will continue to suffer. Zoos will be forced to stop breeding and capturing more animals from the wild only if their financial support disappears. Talk to family, friends, and coworkers—especially those with small children who may be inclined to go—and explain to them that every ticket purchased directly contributes to animals’ misery.