First year assessment

Release them before they do it themselves

Another gorilla has made headlines this week. London Zoo’s Kumbuka roamed the grounds for more than 90 minutes after escaping his enclosure causing tourists to hide inside zoo buildings.

The western lowland silverback gorilla, known for his fiery attitude, smashed through the glass of his enclosure to break free. Witnesses have said staff asked them to avoid eye contact with Kumbuka moments before the incident as he was becoming agitated.

But was it the people making him agitated or the fact he is in captivity?

Kumbuka is the second of his species to be in the news this year after the Cincinnati Zoo shot Haramabe in May following a child falling into his enclosure.

Thankfully this time the gorilla was tranquillised and recaptured before anybody was harmed.

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Kumbuka has been enclosed for three years now. Willard 2013, Flickr

However, both incidents raise a widely debated question: Should wild animals be in captivity?

I can see both perspectives.

On one hand, it’s great to be able to see such fascinating creatures up close. From a conservation stance, taking animals out of the wild for their own protection and to populate their species is also a wonderful idea. These gorillas have been successfully bred for generations in zoos and can survive up to 20 years longer in captivity than the wild.

But where is the quality of life?

Sir David Attenborough said the escape didn’t surprise him as zoo visitors don’t show enough respect for the enclosed animals.

“If the people were respectful that would be something,” he said.

“Sometimes visitors to zoos are not respectful and they start shrieking or waving their arms in order to get the poor gorilla to do something.”

I agree with Attenborough. If these animals, especially the dominant ones, have to be in zoos they shouldn’t be subjected to so many people as it’s clearly distressing them.

Ultimately, I think animals should be free to roam in their natural habitat, the way nature intended. Currently there are over 6000 different animal species in zoos across the world, quite a large and unnecessary number if you ask me. We’re at the stage now where if we wanted to see an exotic animal we could just “Google it” rather than seeing them miserably locked up in a zoo.

Do you want to see these animals enjoying themselves in the wild or placed behind barriers for our own selfish entertainment?

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