Here we go again. Another zoo-kept animal has been killed for merely being an animal.
A zoo in Naples, Florida recently shot and killed a Malayan tiger after a man entered an unauthorized area and put his arm into the tiger’s enclosure to try and pet him (which is, obviously, strictly forbidden).
The tiger then, very predictably, grabbed the man’s arm.
Deputies arrived at the scene and after attempting to get the tiger to release the man’s arm, felt “forced to shoot the animal,” according to The Guardian.
Early reports indicate that the man in question is an employee of a third-party cleaning service that the zoo hires to clean the bathrooms and gift shop, *not* the animal enclosures. However, the man took it upon himself to enter the unauthorized area, stick his arm in the enclosure, and attempt to pet the wild animal.
The tiger, an 8-year-old named Eko, had only arrived at the zoo less than a year ago. Eko is a Malayan tiger, which is a critically endangered species. In the last 70 years, the Malayan tiger population has dropped from 3,000 to less than 200.
This beautiful creature was shot dead at a zoo in Florida because an imbecile tried to pet it through a fence and Eko grabbed his arm. Even if it was in a zoo, it was still a wild animal. I am so mad and upset. I think animal lovers know what I’m thinking…https://t.co/qrggYdi0gT pic.twitter.com/3DwEu0oJa0
— Pieter Joubert 🏳️🌈🇿🇦🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@pieterj1972) December 30, 2021
Unfortunately, Eko’s story is not unique. There are countless stories of visitors who either intentionally or accidentally breach the animal enclosures, usually leading to the death of the animal.
Probably the most notorious example is that of Harambe, a critically endangered western lowland gorilla. In 2016, a 4-year-old boy fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and zookeepers quickly shot and killed him. The incident went viral as people around the nation expressed outrage at Harambe’s death. A subsequent federal investigation found that Harambe’s barrier was not up to U.S. safety standards.
Less than a week prior to Harambe’s death, two lions were killed at a zoo in Chile after a suicidal man willingly jumped into their enclosure and wrapped his arms around a lion’s neck. The zoo had a long history of ignoring safety regulations and failing to properly care for its animals.
The list of zoo-kept animals killed because of human error or stupidity goes on and on. An African Painted Dog in Pittsburgh, a Siberian tiger in San Francisco, and two polar bears in Brooklyn are among some of the others who were killed at the hands of the zookeepers who are there to supposedly “protect” them.
While some try to claim that zoos run conservation programs in an effort to help endangered species, studies have shown that captivity can be extremely detrimental to many animals’ health. Research shows that captivity can lead to brain damage, anxiety, depression, and shorter life spans. Many zoo animals even have to be put on Prozac to help them deal with the stress of captivity.
Unfortunately, at this point, simply releasing a captive animal into the wild is not a viable solution to our zoo problem. Animals in zoos haven’t learned true survival techniques and are too vulnerable.
An animal sanctuary might just be the next best thing, however. There are several animal sanctuaries that rescue former zoo animals and let them roam free on acres of land. They have no human interactions and can live the life they were meant to live.
Additionally, there are some programs that are working hard to learn how to teach captive animals how to survive in the wild. The giant panda conservation program in China has been working for decades to find a way to successfully release captive-born giant pandas in the wild. They do so with as little human interaction as possible. And any human who must come into their area is dressed in panda costumes and doused in panda urine to cover the human smell. The program has shown great promise in recent years.
So next time you want to spend a “fun day” at the zoo, skip it and watch a David Attenborough documentary instead.
READ THIS NEXT
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.