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January 10, 2008

Talk Back: Woe for Captive Wildlife

Readers responded to the recent escape of Tatiana, a Siberian tiger who attacked three men at the San Francisco Zoo, and shared their concerns about the treatment of captive wildlife by zoos, circuses and private owners. Among the comments we received:

There have been reports that Tatiana might have been teased by the men that she attacked. Aren’t there people overseeing such things at the zoos? Why should animals have to live in such conditions! Also, why didn’t they "dart" Tatiana? Why was she killed? Where were Tatiana’s keepers? It wasn’t her fault that she got out if the wall wasn’t high enough! And if she had been teased or rocks thrown at her why didn’t anyone stop it! If zoos don’t want to spend money on adequate habitats and protection for the animals they shouldn’t be allowed to put animals on display. Animals should not be for our entertainment! —Deborah

Thank you so much for the great entry. Middle-of-the-road activists should understand the inherent cruelty in keeping large animals, who live active lives and travel miles a day, confined in tiny enclosures. They are susceptible to many awful illnesses, including arthritis in elephants. I was so proud of the San Francisco Zoo for releasing its elephants into sanctuaries. I'm also so pleased that you raised awareness of the cruelty of circuses. The video was really powerful and sad. I wish people were more aware of circuses. Circuses use so much misinformation to insist that their animals are treated humanely despite the fact that circuses are just a bad idea. I'm so glad that the CEO of the Humane Society is such a well-spoken, bold crusader of animals not afraid to confront cruel institutions. —Sara N.

I visit the San Francisco Zoo occasionally with my kids. Every time I go there I feel so sorry for those animals. I am glad the elephants are gone and I feel so bad for the big cats and the bears. I think the zoo would still be nice for kids even if it left out those animals. They don't belong there! —Lisa

I totally agree with this article. I believe we need zoos to educate the public about our wildlife, but at the same time we need them to set higher guidelines for the public's safety. I don't believe anybody but accredited zoos and sanctuaries should have exotic animals. There is no reason for an individual to house such animals as pets. I have seen video footage of individuals placing exotic pets in the hands of children or posing with the animals beside them. These children do not know the danger they are placed in. The adults that put these children, not to mention other adults, at risk—they should be ashamed of themselves. It sickens me to know that our government allows such thing to take place. I would definitely support new laws to prevent people from breeding and owning exotic animals. —Linda Liebersbach

Elephants belong in the wild—not in a too-small enclosure. And private citizens should not keep wild animals as pets. This is common sense. —Marjorie Hass

Watching the video of these poor, majestic creatures being tamed into this horrid form of submission to survive in the human world was terrible. I could feel every tear rolling down my cheek, until I couldn't feel dry skin. How people pay for these barbarous events fully knowing the ramifications and the treatment endured by these animals made my soul ache. When did we as humans begin to bargain the animalistic soul and happiness for pure entertainment? I disagree entirely with degrading these magnificent animals to mere carnival attractions! Please stop this cruelty; it was truly too much to bear! —Courtney B.

I am in my 40s and have always loved animals, but have never felt that zoos do one of the things they say they are trying to do which is make people more aware of the plight of wild and endangered species. I have visited many zoos over the years, and every time I have seen people (adults and children alike) trying to climb over enclosures, sticking their hands, legs, etc. in the cage, and have actually seen people lift their small children and let them lean into enclosures. If you say anything of course all adults give you the evil eye or tell you to mind your own business (or worse) and zoo officials don't seem to want to kick these people out and bar them from ever coming back. Unfortunately, when people do these things they are going to get hurt. You make your choices and then have to deal with the consequences, and that can sometimes be death! From what I've seen over the years, zoos are partially to blame, but so is the public! Thank you. —Chandra Wilfong

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