I’ve been quite remiss in adding to my blog but such is what happens when the fun of summer gets in the way. I’ll fill you in on my own doings later, but I have so much info to pass on regarding Animals in Captivity that I think I’ll dole it out over the next week or so. There are 13 articles and a couple of headlines so 3 articles at a time?

1. Interesting (scary) how animals are treated depending on what use humans can get out of them.

In the case of a rabbit, she could be a pest rabbit, living as an introduced species in the Australian bush. She could be a research animal, used in a laboratory to test cosmetics. She could be a food animal, bred for rabbit meat or rabbit fur. She could be a companion animal kept as a child’s pet. She could be on display, maybe in a petting zoo. She may even be a star of stage and screen.

Rabbits used by humans in all these different ways receive different legal protections against harm. This means the life of a purpose-bred animal is like a lottery. Some animals will get lucky, others will not.

For example, in New South Wales, a rabbit in a fur or meat farm must be housed in a cage large enough to provide the animal with 0.56 square meters of space. At the same time, research laboratories rabbits should be provided with 0.64 square meters of space, including 0.8 meters in one direction to allow the rabbit to stretch.

So it sounds like a lab-rabbit has the better deal. But those space requirements are not enforceable because animal research laws allow animals to be treated in almost any way the researcher wishes so long as justification is provided and the research is approved by an animal ethics committee. For three years inspections of research facilities in NSW were conducted by a member of the NSW Animal Research Review Panel who never once saw a rabbit in a floor pen with space to move. So if you were a rabbit that likes to move around, life would probably be better on a fur farm than in a research lab.

Let’s say we have a bunny named Bugs who begins his life as a boy’s pet. He escapes and finds himself sold to a fur farm, them a research laboratory and eventually he ends up in a zoo. At each stage the law would treat Bugs very differently. Bugs would have no basic protections that would stay with him throughout his life.

The uncertainty domesticated animals experience makes one wonder whether the law of nature really is more brutal than human-constructed law. Living by your wits can be a challenge. But for an animal such as Bugs, moving from adored pet to somewhere like a research lab could mean that he becomes incredibly vulnerable to suffering. Despite being someone’s pet, all welfare protection is stripped away as soon as he moves from one situation to another.

For an animal born into the world of humans, quality of life is entirely dependent on what a human wants from you at that particular point in time.

2. Giraffe dies with plastic in stomach at Indonesian nightmare zoo full of cramped animals

Nightmare zoo in Indonesia shaken by giraffe death

Mar 13, 20129:43 AM  (AP story)

The tigers are emaciated and the 180 pelicans packed so tightly they cannot unfurl their wings without hitting a neighbor. Last week, a giraffe died with a beachball-sized wad of plastic food wrappers in its belly.

In a March 10, 2012 photo, a moon bear which suffers from a skin tumor sits inside a cage at the quarantine section of the Surabaya Zoo in East Java, Indonesia’s biggest zoo. The bear is without even a full body length of space available for movement.

In a Wednesday, March 7, 2012 photo, some 180 pelicans sit inside a pen, about the size of a volleyball court.

The giraffe’s death has focused new attention on the scandalous conditions at the zoo. Set up nearly a century ago in one the most biologically diverse corners of the planet, it once boasted the most impressive collection in Southeast Asia.

But today it is a nightmare, plagued by uncontrolled breeding, a lack of funding for general animal welfare and even persistent suspicions that members of its own staff are involved in illegal wildlife trafficking.

The rarest species, including Komodo dragons and critically endangered orangutans, sit in dank, unsanitary cages, filling up on peanuts tossed over the fence by giggling visitors.

The zoo came under heavy fire two years ago following reports that 25 of its 4,000 animals were dying every month, almost all of them prematurely. They included an African lion, a Sumatran tiger and several crocodiles.

The government appointed an experienced zookeeper, Tony Sumampouw, to clean up the operation and he struggled, with some success, to bring the mortality rate down to about 15 per month.

But following last week’s death of the 30-year-old giraffe “Kliwon” –who had for years been eating litter and trash thrown into its pen and was found with a 18-kilogram (40-pound) ball of plastic in its stomach –Sumampouw said he’s all but given up.

Nothing short of a “total renovation” is needed, he said.

“We need to either think about privatizing or transferring out some of the animals.”

With entrance fees of less than $2, critics say there’s not enough money to care for the animals, much less invest in improving the zoo’s facilities.

One of the biggest problems is overcrowding. Whereas most zoos limit the number of animals born in captivity taking into consideration how many can reasonably be cared for or exchanged with other zoos, the notion of “family planning” has not yet taken off here. Contraceptives are expensive and there are not adequate facilities to separate males and females. As result, species at the Surabaya zoo are bred to excess.

Nearby, 16 tigers –12 Sumatran and four Bengalese –are kept in a prison-like row of concrete cages.

One white tiger, whose parents were donated by the Indian government nearly 20 years ago, is now covered by skin lesions.Let out so rarely, she suffers from back complications that make it difficult to just stand up, let alone walk, zoo curator Sri Pentawati said.

“There are too many tigers,” she lamented. “We have a hard time rotating them out to get all the exercise they need.”

Zookeepers also have been accused of taking meat meant for the tigers and selling it in the local market.

3.

The Florida state legislature, in its never-ending quest to degrade public resources for private gain, has green-lighted a first-in-the-nation plan to lease public land to zoos and aquariums for use as an African wildlife breeding and research ground.

(Right here we’re all asking, “Ya think something might go wrong?”)

If Gov. Rick Scott signs the just-passed bill, Florida will be the go-to spot for zoos looking for a place to repopulate their herds of camels, zebras, hippos, tapirs, giraffes, gazelles, and rhinos.

“It’s supposed to be a conservation of wildlife bill, but it’s really the opposite,” said state Rep. Mark Pafford,  “We’re going to destroy Florida’s habitat.”

Pafford’s not alone in that contention.

Mary Barnwell, a former public lands manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District for 17 years, wrote that the light-on-details plan to graze African animals in Florida’s pastures will have multiple adverse consequences.

The new animals would degrade the environment for the state’s own endangered wildlife, change the fire characteristics of the land and introduce exotic diseases and parasites, she wrote.

“The mere presence of African wildlife in Florida may have additional, more indirect consequences for native species that we are as of yet unaware. Land managers are already battling a huge number of invasive plants and animals and we do not need any more problems or diversions,” she wrote.

“Instead of worrying about another set of species, and how to monitor the impacts and decipher what is going on at all community levels, land managers need to focus their scarce resources on what they are hired to do – protect and manage Florida’s few scraps of natural habitat remaining.”

The bill was instigated by Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

“The intention is to allow for space in existing pasture – tracts already being grazed by domesticated livestock not at risk of extinction – for other ungulate species that are at risk of extinction,” zoo spokesman Rachel Nelson wrote.

“Accredited zoos and aquariums are committed to doing what we can to ensure species survival locally and internationally, and to promote conservation of the natural habitats on which we depend.”

Pafford calls it “a bizarre bill,” something that arrived “out of the blue” and was approved without much thought or analysis.

“I guess if we’re going to destroy Florida’s habitat, we might as well feed the pythons,” he said.

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