Why Are They Captive?





There are many reasons why animals live in captivity, some for their entire lives, born and raised as captive wildlife. Bred & sold for pets, used as actors for ads documentaries and movies, as entertainment in circuses and shows, for zoo exhibits and safari parks, some are raised for medical research, scientific study, fur or meat, some for trophy hunts, and some as educational ambassadors.


Animals that were born in the wild, may become orphaned, injured, or considered a threat to public safety or livestock, and then removed from their natural habitat. These animals may spend an extended period of time caged, and either be released, relocated, and in some cases, circumstances dictated that the animal remains in captivity.


Not all States are equal; they have different laws regarding the sale, care, keeping, and rehabilitating of animals. There are state and federal rules to abide by, but these can change across state lines and be open to a great deal of interpretation, making the ability to police these regulations sometimes difficult.   


It so happens that sometimes animals are no longer wanted by their owners, or are considered surplus stock in private and commercial businesses. Some owners become sick or financially unable to care for their companions. There are animals that escape, or are abandoned and found wandering the streets, or are released into the wild. Some are neglected, abused, or kept illegally, and then confiscated by law enforcement or wildlife agencies.


Where do these animals end up? Sometimes they are taken in by rescue shelters, sanctuaries, preserves, or private owners. Others are euthanized or sent to animal auctions to be sold off to the highest bidder.


I have spent most of my life working with animals, domestic, wild and exotic. Many years caring for captive wildlife, most of them rescues. I have seen animals loved and kept well, and others not well at all.


Do I think its ok for wild animals to be kept in captivity? No, nor do I agree with “wild” animals often termed exotic, being sold as pets. I have seen the results of when that situation goes wrong, and the animal pays the price.


Do I think captive animals should be released into the wild or to roam the city streets? No. Absolutely not. Many of those animals would not be able to adapt successfully to the wilds. Don’t mistake freedom for fun. A wild life is not for the weak or the unwitting, it can be a merciless and brutal existence; it is survival of the fittest mentally and physically. A captive animal often does not have the same degree of stamina, skill or social ability as its wild brethren. Their captive cousins may not recognize natural foods, having been fed a commercial diet. They may be lacking their natural defenses, like a skunk without its scent glands, a cougar without its claws, or a tamarin without its teeth. Wild animals usually prefer to stay away from people; captive raised animals on the other hand are often too familiar and social with humans. For a wild animal loosing its caution of humans is a bad thing, dangerous for the animal and possibly for us.


However, I do recognize that an animal in captivity can be of great value. Developing a relationship and having an animal as a companion can be a rewarding and enriching experience for both parties. It can allow us to get to know that animal in ways we may not be able to in nature, grant us a window into their life that will help us respect and gain a deeper understanding of the species. Sometimes being able to see an animal up close, or having direct contact with it, can often times make a huge impact on a person, opening the door for further education and appreciation. Animals have brought much learning & joy to kids and grown-ups alike.


A case of captivity being a positive thing was that of the California condor. They were down to the last few birds, taking these into captivity helped save the entire species, their kind are now flying the skies once again and fulfilling their ecological roll in nature. These Condors would have become extinct if the remaining birds had been left in the wild. 


The Caging standards and ability of owners and organizations to house and care for animals, varies greatly. It all boils down to ones intent or mission, finances, management, and legal requirements.Folks are expected to operate within the law, they have permits, site inspections, and hopefully maintain their animals to the best of their ability



If you do not like animals in captivity, or the standards by which they are kept, then you need to work on changing the regulations, or provide financial support to help maintain and improve the conditions for those animals.


There are many individuals and organizations that do their best and try to do the right thing, it is not always easy, and you do not always have the power to change the life or living conditions of animals you work with. But you can work to educate people and help change their lives in the future, it’s about understanding why that animal is in captivity in the first place. That’s where you begin. There can be no real change without fully understanding the situation.


I will always prefer a wild animal live in the wild. But loss of habitat, poaching, polluting, and misuse of wild places and natural resources, are making life in the wild more difficult. We are changing the face and climate of the earth at such a rate, that adapting and evolving to these fast pace changes, is putting enormous pressure on all species. It is essential then that efforts be focused on protection, conservation, and restoration of natural habitats.