25 February 2014

The Last Strike

When we put a wild animal on display, we take more from nature than a single creature.

Life in the wild may be wild, but it's also life, and captivity steals it away. As we have seen with films like The Cove and Blackfish, removing an animal from its natural habitat causes immediate damages and thrusts it into an environment that cannot sustain it in the long run. While those films focus on whales and dolphins, a recent report from National Public Radio teaches us that the effects of captivity touch even animals we might not have thought susceptible.

The story tells of an giant isopod removed from the wild in the waters off Baja California and sent to live in the Toba Aquarium in Japan. After more than a year in this human-constructed environment, the isopod began refusing food in 2009. Its refusal to eat, which NPR characterizes as a hunger strike, continued until two weeks ago. On February 14, 2014, aquarium personnel found the isopod dead in its tank.

Only recently have we awakened to the full cost of keeping wild animals within human enclosures, and the story of this isopod forces us to think about the issue on a much larger scale. Places like zoos can serve an important function for species on the brink of extinction, but we have to ask what else we might be extinguishing when we bring species into captivity. The cost may be worth preventing species from disappearing forever, but for most other reasons, the loss of freedom for animals simply doesn't add up.

If you love something wild, keep it free.

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