11/09/06 "Prizoon" - Just Another Word for Prison

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Animal Friends decisively opposes the acquisition of a new elephant and the enlargement of the Zagreb Zoo on the present location!

The Zagreb Zoo has lost one of its prisoners. Having served her sentence for life, elephant cow Suma has recently died.

The fact that Zoos are miserable places, in which animals are kept like in prisons, forced to bore themselves to death in confined spaces, lonely and isolated from their natural environment, which is reflected by their psychotic and self-destructive behavior, was confirmed a few days ago by Mladen Anic, manager of the Zagreb Zoo. Speaking about the death of the last elephant in Maksimir Park, he stated that, unless the Zoo could offer more humane conditions to its animals, the number of its inhabitants would have to be reduced.

He then corroborated his statement with numbers, saying that European Zoos have about 20 acres of land on the average, while the one in Zagreb has only 6.3 acres. At one point, he even questioned the reason of its existence (!), accentuating the fact that, because of the lack of space, the Zoo had already lost its giraffes, penguins, rhinoceroses, polar bears and hippopotami, since their cages were not large enough for ordering new specimens according to the European standards; and a Zoo without elephants would be totally senseless. Eventually, he concluded that the animals needed only one thing – more space.

Regardless of his personal motives and reasons, manager Anic should be congratulated for that statement. However, more space is not the only thing that the animals in the Zagreb Zoo need. Since it is located in the immediate vicinity of the main soccer stadium, they cannot have any peace and quiet because of the busy traffic. The Zoo cannot be improved by any embellishment or enlargement; the only solution (that would be in the interest of animals) is to transfer it outside the city boundaries and transform it into a sanctuary, allowing animals to move freely without regard to the visitors' wishes, the purpose of which would not be solely to acquire as many animals as possible.

Therefore, Animal Friends is decisively against the acquisition of a new elephant and the enlargement of the Zoo to include a part of the land belonging to the Faculty of Agriculture. That would only bring us further away from the right solution – transferring the Zoo out of the city centre to a locality that would be protected from noise and pollution, which would offer the animals at least a hint of freedom that has been taken from them forever, while making it more enjoyable to visit, since it would remind the citizens of a trip to the nature rather than a prison tour.

It is interesting that more and more zoos around the world are beginning to realize that there is something wrong with them. Thus, the Philadelphia Zoo will stop "exhibiting" elephants next spring after 132 years and, instead of enlarging the space in which they have been kept, the four elephants will be transferred to the Maryland Zoo and the elephant sanctuary in central Tennessee, where they will enjoy better living conditions. Animal experts have reached the conclusion that elephants need vast spaces where they will be able to move and that, despite the good care they have received in Philadelphia, the size of their cage is not even remotely sufficient for the largest dry-land mammal on Earth. The Zoos of Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, and Bronx have, likewise, decided to stop exhibiting elephants!

On the other end of the scale, let us mention the example of the Nantai Zoo, located on the island of Hainan in southern China, which is compelled to sell their crocodiles as steaks – at a price of 27 USD per kilogram – in order to support itself until the end of the month. These drastic measures have put 2,000 crocodiles in danger of ending up as meat on someone's plate!

Taking into account all these facts, it is becoming increasingly clear that Zoos are losing their primary function, which is, allegedly, to preserve endangered species and educate the public. Zoos all over the world are clearly places where animals are tortured, "prizoons" ruled by personal interests, which the sad example of elephant cow Suma has also shown, since she preferred death over life in prison without her loving companion. Regardless of whether we are ready to admit it or not, who among us would choose to live eternally in a small prison cell if he or she could have only one month of unlimited freedom? Wild animals are used only to that kind of freedom and that is the only thing they want from us: to let them live freely, unbound by any rules and limitations imposed by man, freedom that they fully enjoyed before man came and put them into "prizoons" he calls Zoos.

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