Different stories, same fate
In the last couple of days there were two pieces of news about zoo animals with very different fortunes.
The first one was about the birth of a baby elephant which was thought and 'confirmed' to have died in the womb during the six-day labour. The male calf was trapped in a position from which a live birth was thought to be impossible and ultrasound appeared to confirm the diagnosis. The complete absence of any vital signs during all the checks and examinations made this survival story a 'miracle'. The baby elephant has taken its first steps.
The second news story is more depressing. Eleven Siberian tigers have died at a zoo in Liaoning, China over the past three months. There are discrepancies about how they died. While a manager at the zoo said the tigers simply died of various diseases, a local wildlife protection official said that malnutrition was one cause. Whatever the reason, the case raises questions about how zoo animals are treated in China.
While the two news items convey contrasting sentiments, what lies behind them is the sad fact that majestic wild animals like elephants and tigers are reduced to a life in captivity. Only about 50, or one percent, of the 5,000 tigers in China are left in the wild. The loss of their natural habitat and human poaching have driven many wild animals to the verge of extinction and a captive life may well be the only way to preserve them. But it is sad to see these regal animals which not so long ago still roamed and ruled the land now being forced to live an undignified life in cages where movement is restricted and disease is rampant. It may not be long before we can only have wild animals in zoos but not in the wild anymore.