Many headlines in recent weeks have told of the fact that zoos are almost universally struggling with the current lockdown crisis. As public entertainment businesses, their main income has been lost and many are facing closure should the lockdown restrictions continue.

Colchester Zoo, among many others, has suggested that permanent closure is likely if the lockdown is further extended. Also, Borth Wild Animal Kingdom, who currently owe £75,000 in tax arrears, are unlikely to survive the crisis.

The lives of animals in zoos are being put at further risk by this crisis. However, the lives of these animals in captivity outside of this crisis is far from idyllic.

The zoo environment can never fulfil the needs of a wild animal, as is documented in many cases of stereotypical behaviour witnessed in animals (pacing up and down, repetitive movements, etc.) caused by boredom and a severe lack of enrichment. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 animals in European zoos are killed each year due to either being surplus to the zoos' requirements or having the “wrong” genes for breeding.

One major concern is that if zoos do close that zoos could kill the animals, as was recently threatened by Tropiquaria in Somerset. This would be a completely unethical decision and could take thousands of lives. If a zoo were to close we would hope and push for homes to be found in non-breeding sanctuaries, although suspect that they would likely be rehomed in other zoos.

However, the dire situation that these animals find themselves in is caused by zoos themselves. Without zoos breeding and keeping animals captive for humans to look at, the animals wouldn't be facing this concerning predicament. 

The vast majority of animals in zoos are not classified as endangered (our study found that only 9% of species in Welsh zoos are endangered) and reintroductions into the wild are extremely rare. As such, any argument that the animals “have” to be imprisoned for conservation reasons, do not hold up. Therefore these animals are being held captive simply for entertainment purposes and should not be in these enclosures in the first place.

This current crisis brings the reason why zoos should not exist into stark realisation. 

Freedom for Animals is working towards an eventual end to all zoos, to ensure that animals aren't put in this awful situation again.