A flamingo at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida had to be euthanized after sustaining serious injuries at the hands of a park guest, according to reports. Witnesses say that a man who was at the park with his family reached into a pen, grabbed the bird, named Pinky, and threw her to the ground.
The man was held by on-site security until Tampa police arrived to arrest him on charges of cruelty to animals. His motives for the twisted act that he’s reportedly accused of remain unclear. But we do know one thing: Captivity does not teach compassion.
Kind people everywhere are outraged by the needless suffering and death of Pinky, but this story is just the latest drop in a very deep bucket of similar incidents. Captive animals are denied any semblance of a natural life and everything that’s instinctual and important to them.
— WAVY TV 10 (@WAVY_News) August 4, 2016
Like many zoos and institutions that profit from keeping animals captive, Busch Gardens asserts that Pinky was used “on behalf of the park’s conservation and education efforts” throughout her life, but her death is a much more telling look at the types of lessons that people actually learn from watching exploited animals who are locked up for human entertainment.
Pinky, Harambe, Marius, and More: These Horror Stories Show That Zoos Teach People That Wild Animals Are Expendable
Originally posted June 1, 2016. Written by Angela Henderson.
The death of Harambe, a captive, critically endangered Western lowland gorilla who was shot dead after a 3-year-old child fell into his enclosure at the zoo, has sparked widespread outrage. While online debate seeking to assign blame for his death goes on, it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture.
Harambe, whose species is native to parts of Africa, never belonged in a Cincinnati Zoo pit. Captivity is the real crime here.
It happens again and again. Captivity is indirectly, and often directly, responsible for the deaths of wild animals. The same day that Harambe was killed, a captive pregnant sea lion reportedly died after zookeepers attempted to tranquilize her because she appeared to be claiming another sea lion’s baby as her own. A week before that, two lions were gunned down at a zoo in Chile because a man reportedly intending to commit suicide deliberately climbed into the big cats’ enclosure. And the lions, who never wanted to be imprisoned in the zoo, paid the ultimate price.
Just this year, in two separate instances, two zebras have died after escaping their captors. In Japan, an escaped zebra died after falling in a lake after being tranquilized during a recapture attempt. Months later, another escaped zebra, this time in New York, died after falling off a cliff in her attempt to flee captivity.
But sometimes animals die because zoos decide they just don’t want them anymore.
Two years ago, the world was horrified when Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, was killed by the Copenhagen Zoo and fed to lions after he was deemed useless for breeding purposes. Marius wouldn’t have been considered “surplus” in his natural home, but at the zoo, he was unwanted because his existence would not line anyone’s pockets.
Marius’ untimely death raised questions about the real motivations of zoos, but it didn’t prevent other similar deaths from occurring. Just a year after Marius’ death, another Danish zoo killed a female lion cub and dissected her in front of a crowd of children, for the same reason: She was considered “surplus.”
A spokesperson from the zoo told BBC’s Newsbeat that this is a normal process, but while it may be normal for zoos, it certainly isn’t normal for lions. In the wild, the lion population would be controlled naturally, without human intervention.
Sometimes, the very enclosures in which the animals are imprisoned end up being their killers. Kipenzi—a giraffe who was only a few months old—died at the Dallas Zoo in August 2015 after running into the perimeter wall of her enclosure and breaking her neck. Months later, a baby giraffe at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in central California died in a similar manner—after colliding with a fence. In January 2016, Wesley, a young giraffe at Zoo Miami, died after his head got caught between two posts, reportedly causing him to panic and sustain an injury to his spine that led to his euthanasia. The zoo called this a “freak accident.”
— KFDA NewsChannel10 (@NewsChannel10) July 29, 2015
But it isn’t just the enclosures. Human mistakes also contribute to the deaths of animals in zoos. Days after the baby giraffe died at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, a capybara at the same zoo was killed after being attacked by an anteater. These two species rarely interact in nature, and their compatibility in forced proximity should never have been assumed. In another instance, an otter died at the Calgary Zoo in Canada after a pair of pants was dropped into his enclosure by workers, causing him to get tangled up and drown. A zoo official reportedly called the pants an “unauthorized enrichment item.”
— CBC Calgary (@CBCCalgary) February 17, 2016
There is a Way to Stop This
The list of captivity-related deaths is endless, but you can help put a stop to them by refusing to buy a ticket to any business that profits from the display of live animals and by encouraging your friends and family to do the same. It’s too late for Harambe and so many other animals whose deaths were a result of captivity, but we can help captive animals going forward by saying NO to attractions that exploit them.