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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Trouble’s Uncaged When Zoo Animals Escape

Published 12/05/10

You would think zoos are all about locking animals up. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? If only they could be free … but wait a minute!

New research from Spain suggests that zoos are not just a place where animals are forced to live out frequently meaningless lives in unnatural confinement. It seems that animals escaping from zoos could pose a real and present danger to native wildlife.

I’ve seen enough zoos to know that it’s true. Poorly constructed enclosures and porous perimeter fences mean that all too often animals who are meant to be locked up for visitors to stare at can make a break for it. Great, you might say. Let them have a chance of some freedom! But it’s not so good when these jailbreak animals successfully compete, and in some cases out-compete, with native wild species — a process called “genetic swamping.”

My colleague, Barry Kent MacKay based at our Canadian office, has taken a closer look. Read his article to find out more.

Of course, the bottom line is that animals in zoos shouldn’t be there in the first place. As Born Free has been saying for years, wildlife should be in the wild. But while we have zoos, we’d better make sure that the animals get cared for properly and that their escape wouldn’t put the survival of our own native wildlife at risk.

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