This film educates its audience about polar bears—and the animals don’t seem to mind that they’re being spied on. Not so in the case of the video below: Shot by a giggling zoo visitor, it shows how polar bears suffer in captivity (so much so that some animals are given mood-altering drugs) and how naïve zoogoers misinterpret the animals’ neurotic behavior.
The typical enclosure for a polar bear at a zoo is a mere one millionth the size of a polar bear’s minimum home range in the wild.
And if the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre has its way, more bears will be taken captive. The center’s plan is to seize polar bears from the wild in Manitoba and dump some of them at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg and others at zoos around the world. The export of polar bears from Manitoba was stopped in the 90s after animals were found languishing in all sorts of places—even, as PETA discovered, in a Mexican circus. But now, some are determined to resurrect this cruel practice.
And others are determined to stop it: John Youngman, a lawyer and former president of the Zoological Society of Manitoba, wrote this enlightening commentary. Every sentence underscores how misguided the center’s plan is, but I think my favorite point might be the following: “As for educational value, the only substantive thing a polar bear in captivity teaches kids is that it’s okay to ruin an animal’s life for our viewing pleasure.” Or maybe it’s this: “There is no ‘conservation’ value in capturing wild polar bears and putting them in zoos. Nor is there any known program for successfully rehabilitating orphaned or captive-born polar bears back into the wild.”
Tell us which point in Youngman’s piece you think hits the hardest, and if your local zoo houses polar bears, please ask it to phase them out. As long as there is a demand for keeping these animals captive, the industry will look for ways to abduct them from their homes.
Written by Karin Bennett