17th November 2022

Freedom for Animals is shocked and saddened by the news that Sinda, a beautiful tigress held captive at Knowsley Safari Park, has been killed during an orchestrated breeding attempt, after she fell victim to a fatal bite from an 8 year old male tiger called Miron whilst mating. 

Sinda was cruelly held captive her entire life, and incarcerated at Knowsley Safari Park for 12 long years. She was 14 years old when she died on the 12th November.

A park representative told the BBC that such incidents “were not uncommon during the mixing of big cats and the reason is often unknown”.

Of course, the reason is glaringly obvious, but zoos do not want to draw attention to the facts. Zoos are incredibly unnatural environments for wild animals, and big cats are no exception. In the wild, they have complex social interactions, and typically males and females will only join together during the breeding season; with females roaming and hunting alone with their young outside of these months. Mating would happen naturally, in a comfortable known environment to the individuals in question. The male will often take time and energy to choose a large territory where several females are known to dwell, and would therefore have ample space to explore and connect with potential mates in natural surroundings.

Bred into suffering

Zoos cannot provide appropriate environments for wild animals like tigers. Captive environments are so far removed from tigers' natural habitats that it is no surprise these animals display serious signs of stress and discomfort when placed in the European breeding programmes mixing structure. It is wholly unnatural and designed for building profit, not animal welfare or conservation.

These terrible cases of suffering come about as a direct result of zoos “playing God” and ultimately deciding which individuals to force together and breed. They will claim they are allowing animals to express their natural behaviours, but no captive animal is ever given the gift of a natural life. The true aim of the EAZA Ex Situ breeding programme (EEP), is to gain a constant stream of ‘cute’ baby animals that they can advertise and generate ticket sales off the back of; often killing surplus animals when they grow to become adults and replace them with more ‘cute’ baby animals. 

Zoos have been around for over 200 years, all the while claiming to support in-situ conservation and promoting species growth, yet the biodiversity and extinction crises have only gotten worse. It is clear there is little to no benefit for their wild relatives in keeping so many in captivity.      

In reality, no tigers bred in captivity in the UK have been released into the wild through these breeding programmes. They are a con. Designed to convince the public that zoos have the ability and desire to reintroduce these species into the wild, when they actually have no intention of doing so. Tigers are still one of the most vulnerable and endangered species in the world, with less than 4,000 individuals left in the wild globally. Zoos have had no positive impact on their catastrophic decline, and continue to kill healthy big cats within the EEP as “surplus stock”. Over-breeding (and the resultant killing of unwanted ‘surplus’ animals) in captivity is a huge issue in the zoo world, and animals suffer greatly as a result of it.

The question must be also raised, that if occurrences such as the tragedy of Sinda are commonplace, as stated by Knowsley Safari Park, then how can breeding programmes claim to be beneficial to conservation? Losing individuals when trying to produce more individuals within that species, seems counterproductive to the conservation efforts they claim to support. 

No animal deserves to suffer a lifetime of captivity, and zoos are no place for these incredible animals to live their lives. These horrible cases of suffering will continue to occur, until all zoos are closed and all captive animals are free to live their lives in the wild.