The recent death of a Sea World trainer by a killer whale has re-ignited the debate over whether wild animals like this should be in captivity. As a parent and animal lover, I continuously struggle with reconciling the enjoyment and educational value of seeing live, wild animals that we would not otherwise see (not everyone can afford to go whale watching or go on safari) with the fact that visiting zoos and the like support keeping these animals in captivity.As a child, I fondly recall visiting the circus and one of my greatest experiences was touching a shark at Sea World. As an adult and parent; however, I won't take my daughter to a circus because of the reported cruelty in circus performances and I think she can have as much fun at a human-only show.
When it comes to zoos, I'm more ambivalent about the pros and cons of visiting them. Last summer, we took her to Turtle Back Zoo because as a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums they must provide animals with enrichment programs as well as a high level of care. However, I still felt a little guilty because even though they were well cared for, they were not in their native habitats.
Despite my guilt, I still feel there is something to be learned from seeing live animals so lately I've considered visiting places such as the Raptor Trust that offer visitors the change to see wild animals. However, organizations like this also are dedicated to conservation, education and rehabilitating injured, wild animals and, most important to me, places like this include releasing recuperated animals back into their habitat as part of their mission. And maybe these kinds of facilities will offer even more educational opportunity for my daughter as well as for myself.
Originally Published By Sandra K. Lee on March 10, 2010 on the New Jersey Mom's Blog.
Sandra K. Lee