Imagine oneself being removed from their natural habitat and being sent away to an unknown place with a completely different environment and into a cage. The modern word used for keeping the animals in the cage is Zoo. “Zoo” under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 is defined as “an establishment, whether stationary or mobile, where captive animals are kept for exhibition to the public but does not include a circus and an establishment of a licensed dealer in captive animals.” The term “exhibit” used in this particular definition encourages the Researcher to emphatically disagree to the concept of zoo in the country. No living thing, be it human or animal shall be a subject of recreation for any other being. Likewise no animals caged in the zoo shall prove to be a source of entertainment for the human beings. This scenario is not less than that of the animals being used as captives. No animal shall be used as a captive in any way or the other. There are numerous guidelines and legislations that talk about the terms such as trade of animals, trophy, captive animals, hunting of animals, using of animals as vehicles and taxidermy. The animals caged in the zoo are no less than captives and their death in the zoo due to restricted habitat is not natural but shall be termed as hunting by the Zoo authorities.
There are various legislations in the country that lay down guidelines for the protection of wild life animals like the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Indian Forest Act, 1927 and Forest Acts of State Government, The Forest Conservation Act 1980, The Biological Diversity Act (2002), National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), National Forest Policy (1998), the National Zoo Policy 1998 and Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. All these statutes lay down various guidelines on treating animals in a better way and speak of diminishing practices like hunting, keeping animals in captivity.
According to a recent study it was discussed that Zoos are too small for some animals. Larger animals need more space to roam around. Polar bears have 1 million less space in the zoo and Elephants in the wild live more than 3 time as long as those kept in zoos. Tigers and lions have 18.000 times less space in zoos then they would in the wild. This is why the concept of zoos should come to an end. Some animals in zoos are dying before they should. In India there is a zoo called Bannerghatta in the last 4 months 273 animals died. But in Africa elephants in the wild live more than animals that are in the zoo.
Thinking that everything the government talks about bringing in any new legislation for the betterment of the animals in the zoo helps the authorities to improve the condition of the zoo shall not be termed as correct all the time. The matters regarding the ill treatment of the animals in the zoo, insufficient food and unhealthy conditions of the animals only comes in front when someone reports or finds out the condition. There are no doubt individuals who have helped in making the lives of the animals in the zoo better but for how long does this remain? How much time does it take to get back into the situation where the zoo was before raising a voice or before bringing the topic in front of the Judiciary? Imagine if causing injuring to strays is such a heinous crime, how big is it a crime to re habilitate the wild animals from their natural habitat? Isn’t that the biggest way of causing hurt to any living species? There have been various cases for the development of Zoos and well-being of the animals within it.
India does have a large number of National Parks and Safari’s, namely Ranthambore National Park, Hemis National Park, Jim Corbett National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park and many more which serve the dual purpose of preserving the wild animals and also educating the individuals. We indeed have proper means to maintain such habitats and with the a little more effort in proper monitoring and investing into these national parks and Safari’s instead of the Zoos we can save our animals and prevent them from facing any kind of atrocities they face in the Zoo.
Zoos are very tiny and man-made which means it will never be like their natural habitat. National parks are big enough to hold multiple animals without having to separate them and pay more money for food that doesn’t grow naturally and water. National parks also make the animals more comfortable and not too dependent on people which can change the animal’s behavior. Space for the animals is becoming smaller and smaller, but a zoo only gives them a tiny slice of what they would want in the wild. National Parks help protect wildlife and landscapes. They also provide a chance for healthy activity to the students by making them a part of exchange programs where the student can visit another country and learn about their national parks and vice versa.
Author(s) Name: Anwesha Pathak (Assistant Professor, New Law College, Bhartiya Vidyapeeth, Pune)