On the 15th of April this year, Zookeeper Stacey Konwiser was attacked and killed by a male Malayan tiger at the local Palm Beach Zoo. According to the Sun Sentinel website, “Five minutes before Konwiser was scheduled to do a tiger show at Palm Beach Zoo, maintenance workers heard what sounded like a scream. The tiger, with his ears pinned back, was within inches of Konwiser’s body, guarding her like prey.” This instance of a captive animal attacking his zookeeper is not the first and it certainly will not be the last.
Zoos in recent years have been subjected to scrutiny as more and more animal activists are speaking for the animals. The activists groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have been working to shut down zoos, circuses, and aquariums for the wrongful treatment of animals. They claim that the animals, while taken care of in all physical aspects, are under extreme mental distress, causing them to act out in violent ways. Ringling Brothers, the popular circus which dominated the country for over a century, recently removed elephants for their acts and set up a sanctuary for the elephants to live out their lives in peace. More and more, zoos and other industries with captive animals veering away from profiting off of mental anguish of animals.
While zoos promote conservation and breed endangered animals, like the Malayan Tigers at the Palm Beach Zoo, it seems they have begun to focus more on the profits gained. The PETA website states “Most animals in zoos are not endangered, and while confining animals to zoos keeps them alive, it does nothing to protect wild populations and their habitats.” Zoos seek out profits at the expense of the animals. These animals often resort to pacing, bar-biting, and head bobbing to cope with the stress of captivity.
It could be argued that zoos allow urban children to experience nature and provide education about conservation locally, however at what cost to the animal’s well being. There is no way to domesticate these wild animals like elephants and tigers. They are not dogs and cats. While originally created with good intentions for preservation and education, zoos have become outdated as more information is revealed about the mental health of captive animals. Zoos and other parks with animals profit at the expense of the animals and the Palm Beach Zoo is just one of the many who are paying the price for it.