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Should we keep animals in captivity?

After Harambe and the squash-guzzling gorilla of London Zoo, we ask Cardiff if it’s time to review the way our zoos house their animals.

Are gorillas kept in cruel conditions? Wikimedia Commons/Brocken Inaglory

Are gorillas kept in cruel conditions? Wikimedia Commons/Brocken Inaglory

Zoos have been in the news recently, especially with the incidents involving Harambe and the near escape of a gorilla in London Zoo. Activists have long criticised zoos for keeping large animals in enclosures far smaller than the habitats they are used to. Last week even David Attenborough weighed in, saying gorillas deserved more privacy and suggested ‘peepholes’ into their enclosures. We took to the streets of Cardiff to see what people thought about keeping animals in captivity and our effect on wildlife the world over.

In recent months there have been two incidents at zoos involving gorillas, including a near escape at London Zoo a few weeks ago. With concerns for the welfare of animals and safety of visitors, how do you feel about keeping animals like this in captivity? 

Gopal, 27, is a charity worker and doesn't agree with captivity for entertainment

Gopal, 27, is a charity worker and doesn’t agree with captivity for entertainment

Gopal: “I think they should be treated with care just like you would anyone else [a human]. You wouldn’t do it to a child so why should you do it to an animal? Animals should never be kept for entertainment. If animals are kept for their own health or well-being rather than to exploit them, maybe I can accept that.”

Store assistant Sean, 21, says it was 'obnoxious' of people to criticise Harambe's keepers

Store assistant Sean, 21, says it was ‘obnoxious’ of people to criticise Harambe’s keepers

Sean: “Zoos have an important role in education and conservation, especially when we think about how inaccessible nature is to the majority of people in the modern world. So zoos do have merit. The safety of visitors is of course paramount. Let’s say Harambe’s keepers took no action and the kid had got hurt, that would have had a severely negative effect on the zoo, certainly the conservation of gorillas specifically. ”

Shop assistant Elaine is worried by the plight of wildlife but doesn't think going after zoos is the right answer.

Shop assistant Elaine is worried by the plight of wildlife but doesn’t think going after zoos is the right answer.

Elaine: “There’s definitely value keeping certain animals where we can keep track of them. It’s sad that we aren’t taking proper care of the planet, and it does worry me that wildlife is dying out so fast. We should definitely be doing more. What? I don’t know.”

Lee, 33, says human concerns should come above animals, and stresses safety.

Lee, 33, says human concerns should come above animals, and stresses safety.

Lee: “We should always talk about human welfare first before animal welfare. Make sure zoos are safer for visitors. Just give them bigger cages and make the fences better. We never see animals like that over here so we should still be able to go see them at zoos. I’ve been to Florida and held every animal going, so I’m not scared of nothing. So it’s all a question of safer cages.”

Student Anna, 20, thinks zoo profits diverted to conservation make them worthwhile

Student Anna, 20, thinks zoo profits diverted to conservation make them worthwhile.

Anna: “Without zoos many endangered species would struggle to breed and zoos’ efforts helps to allow populations to grow. Zoos help to educate people from a young age about animals and the importance of conservation. The admission prices at zoos go towards helping animals in need. However, I feel that authorities in Africa selling hunting permits to aid conservation efforts is very contradictory and they should raise the money in other ways.”

Pierre, a 38-year old accountant, says that being able to experience wildlife is important.

Pierre, a 38-year old accountant, says that being able to experience wildlife is important.

Pierre: “To keep animals in captivity away from their habitat does not seem right. At the same time it’s nice to have a space where people can come and appreciate that they do exist, and to have a glimpse of the kind of animals that we have on the planet. It’s better if people can go to the places the animals normally live but that is normally much more expensive, and not everyone can do that. You can watch them on TV but it’s not the same. “