How can we bear animals in zoos?

Not quite in the Raymond Briggs league - Due North,the polar bear
Pitiful: The polar bear in Flamingo Land in Yorkshire.

A weekly appreciation of nature.

Sean Wood

Sean Wood

QUESTION: Are polar bears an endangered species? Answer: No.
So why on earth do we insist on caging them in concrete mausoleums guaranteed to send them stir crazy? Look at the picture here and weep. Some moron had thrown an orange into the bear and the bear had mauled its way into the fruit, more out of curiosity than hunger, before slumping back down onto the concrete once more.
We came upon the Marcus and Mandy enclosure during our summer trip to the coast when we visited the Flamingo Land theme park near Pickering.
A large poster informed visitors that the iron fence which splits the pool was placed there to prevent the beasts fighting and it also told us at great length why one of them died.
Where they should be The chances are the bears were bred in captivity and this would be the excuse the establishment would use for keeping them and displaying them in this fashion. However, if zoos are going to play the game of captive breeding, using the notion of 'ensuring a species survival' then they should be prepared to 'train them' for release into the wild, or not keep them at all.
Of course this form of action would involve massive expenditure not to mention time and expertise. In certain areas across the Arctic, the polar bear has become almost like our urban fox - they are regularly seen around people's bins and have become something of a nuisance and a danger to the locals.
People have been employed purely to sedate the bears before shipping them a hundred miles north. The television more than ever brings the world's wildest life into our front rooms and it is also possible to visit many wilderness areas much more easily than ever before and the prices are coming down all the time as 'eco operators' vie for clients. What do readers think, am I overstating the case?

Anglers aim to sink poachers

POACHERS are on the prowl in Ashton, subjecting fish to cruel, torturous deaths, says a concerned angler. Alvin Davies told a public meeting he had found 'set lines' hidden in the undergrowth around Hurst Knoll pond.
Set lines are lengths of strong fishing line pegged out, hooked and baited and left to catch fish. The poacher may only return days later to reel in his catch which has been struggling on the line, he added. Mr Davies said after the district assembly meeting: "It is a cruel way of taking fish because they could be there several days.
"We have found four set lines recently. It was reported to the police. We haven't had a problem since." Sgt John Davies, an Ashton community beat officer, said: "As far as we know there have been no more occurrences. "Half the problem was that the gates to the allotment area (which allows access to the pond) had been demolished by a stolen car and not replaced.
Those are up again now." Mr Davies, chairman of Hurst anglers, revealed greedy angling trophy- hunters were willing to pay hundreds of pounds for prize catches. He added other local angling clubs had also been hit. Now he says his anglers are taking no chances and are stepping up security around their own pond, off Smallshaw Lane, and checking for holes in the perimeter fence. Sgt Davies said no other clubs had reported a problem with poachers and added hopefully the new gates at Hurst Knoll would help solve their worries.
[The Advertiser Sep14 2000]

End of fishing era

SIR - Re: Steve Hoyle's letter in which he referred to the 'end of an era' article (Readers views 26/2/98). He quotes: "There is a real shortage of fishing waters in Tameside."
Good, I'm glad that it is the end of an era. Let's hope the River Tame isn't stocked with fish merely to satisfy the pleasures of a minority who have been displaced from their own private areas. It's bad enough that the canals of Tameside are already utilised for fishing.
Both waterways are the habitats of creatures ranging from voles and squirrels to coots and moorhens, who invariably will become the victims of stray hooks and lines.
Tameside should outlaw all forms of so-called sport and show that it is an area fit for citizens of a new millennium, who respect the environment and the animals that live in it, and maybe the new millennium will be the 'end of an era' for all animal sports.
DL Borrell, Ashton.

Waterways can benefit

SIR - Re: the letter by DL Borrell (Readers' views 19/3/98)
As little as 20 years ago, the canals and rivers in and around Tameside were little more than open sewers, devoid of all life. In the intervening years, various agencies concerned with the waterways - with the help, advice, encouragement and money of anglers - have made giant strides in the clean-up of the waterways. Habitat improvements and stocking of fish have encouraged all forms of wildlife. Without anglers and their licence money, the Environment Agency as we know it would not exist and little of this work would ever have been done. Anglers are the eyes and ears of the waterside, seeing potential and obvious pollution incidents and acting on them.
The Environment Agency and the Anglers Cooperative Association fight the polluters in court and get compensation to rebuild devastated waterways. All this is paid for solely by anglers. I have watched the rivers and canals grow and improve for 40 years and can now see kingfishers in the Coyt Valley, something I never expected in my lifetime. Would people prefer the DL Borrell and Tameside Council approach, ie evict the anglers, fill in the waterways and build on them? What happens to the wildlife then?
Steve Hoyle, Tameside angler.
[The Advertiser Apr2 1998]

My comment :It is interesting that Steve Hoyle uses the ploy of saying that angler's money has been used to revamp the waterways and that anglers are the eyes and ears of the Environment Agency as if this justified killing an animal.It doesn't matter how much money you spend Steve, you are still killing or torturing creatures.I'm quite sure that if Hitler had said he had paid a lot of money for the upkeep of gas chambers this would have gone no nowhere to justifying his actions.
As for the bears in zoos,Sean is quite right,we think we have a moral responsibility to save species from extinction, if we hold such moral highground we can't very well kill foxes or otherwise we'd be hypocrites. If we do save species from extinction this is "unnatural" since species should die in order that "natural selection" should occur. If a case is made for saving a species through some human requirement for preferring the animal to be kept on this planet (ie because we damaged its environment) then zoos maybe places for captive breeding programmes. What they should not be is jails for animals not under threat of extinction or viewing houses for a curious public.
Some animals maybe able to live in such circumstances,but animals such as polar bears are hunters and roam over hundreds of kilometres in their native habitat. Keeping them in concrete pits is cruel and there is no justification, save stopping them from becoming extinct - in which case they could be kept in much better circumstances,and should not be baubles for humans to stare at. I've visited a few zoos,and note that they vary markedly in quality of upkeep and in the capacity to care for their animals.Some are excellent and cater for the animal's welfare and environment and mental stimulation.
Because of speciesism,many people think animals do not have thoughts or feelings. The type of behaviours that occur in unstimulated animals,notably apes,bears,large cats and parrots indicate that boredom is as incapacitating to their mind as it is ours.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)


His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly--. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.
(translated by Stephen Mitchell)
[As heard in "Awakenings"]


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