July 14, 2021

Can Zoo Animals have Mental Health Issues? Studies Say Yes.

I just read a Sky News article about the United Kingdom Elephant Welfare Group and their 10-year study to suggest improvements in the welfare of elephants in captivity.

Captivity in general and zoos, in particular, are stressful environments, especially for large mammals. They need a space similar to their natural environment for them to stay physically and mentally healthy. Bob Jacobs, Professor of Neuroscience, Colorado College states, “Elephants typically travel anywhere from 15 to 120 miles per day. In a zoo, they average three miles daily, often walking back and forth in small enclosures.” I’m sure anyone who went through a recent quarantine can empathize with the elephants in zoos.

Learning about animals and animal welfare does not have to involve seeing them caged in a zoo and empathy for their plight does not require that we see them in person. Elephants in particular are highly intelligent and social creatures, consoling each other when upset.

Zoos do have a place in animal preservation, but mindfully considering the necessity of using them and making sure that the animals have an environment closest to nature is the kindest way to do this. The UK researchers are going to present evidence-based suggestions for the current elephant zoo population and plans for how to handle the futures of these creatures.

As consumers and travelers, we can make choices and vote with our wallets, spending in alignment with our values. This includes funding organizations and supporting businesses that take the time to make sure animals are well cared for in the best environment for their physical and mental health.


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