Zaire the gorilla

A victim of the zoo industry

Zaire spent 45 years in captivity. She died a prisoner in January 2020.

By the time she was born in 1974 she was already the property of Jersey Zoo. Her mother Nandi was tragically taken from the wild for captivity. Her father Jambo was already a born captive.

She spent her first 10 years at Jersey Zoo. Growing up there she was placed on display for crowds to marvel at this wonderful animal, most not seeing the tragedy of her captivity.

Next, Zaire was transported to London Zoo where she met male gorilla Kumba. The two formed a bond. Tragically, their first infant died in childbirth but together they had a daughter Kamili. Kamili was eventually taken away from them to be put on display at Belfast Zoo.

In 2000 Kumba died. Zaire was filmed regurgitating her food and re-eating it, an eating disorder commonly found in captive gorillas caused by the stress of captivity. The zoo admitted that she was grieving but tried to explain away her unhealthy behaviours by saying she did it as she ‘likes the taste’.

She lived at London Zoo for over thirty years. Imagine what you have experienced in thirty years, all the places you have been. Zaire was stuck there all that time. In a space so far removed from her wild home, with the crowds staring in.

The zoo told its visitors that Zaire was well looked after. They said that keeping gorillas like Zaire in captivity assists the survival of her species. What they do not say is that she suffered for her captivity. They do not say that she had no hope of ever making it back to the wild, that she never escaped her cage.

Zaire should have been in the mountain forests in Africa with her friends and family. She should have been resting each night in her nest in the trees, which she would make at the end of every day. She should have fallen asleep each night to the sounds of the forest.

Instead, she slept in her glass room. She did not see the stars as the lights from the city she lived in light up the sky, even at night. There was no forest for Zaire.

We shine a light on Zaire.

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