One Year Ends & Another Begins With Devastating Reminders Of Why Wild & Exotic Animals Should Never Be Exploited In Captivity

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2018 ended with the heart-wrenching news that a young woman lost her life in North Carolina, and 2019 began with a toddler having to be hospitalized in Florida; both following tragic encounters with animals held captive in unnatural environments.

On Sunday December 30th, a 22-year-old intern at The Conservators Center was mauled to death by a lion that reportedly escaped from a locked area during what the North Carolina-based wildlife facility described was a “routine enclosure cleaning.”

“We are heartbroken to announce the death yesterday morning of a remarkable young woman Alexandra Black,” the Center shared on its website and Facebook page. “Although Alex was with us for a very short time, she made an impact on our community.”

As per the organization, after not responding to tranquilizer darts, the 14-year-old male lion, named Matthai, was euthanized by first responders out of necessity in order to recover the victim.

While The Conservators Center is USDA-licensed, it is not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which claims to require facilities to meet strict animal safety and security standards. In some cases, that is blatantly not enough to save both human and animal lives.

The Conservators Center, which was founded in 1999 as an “educational nonprofit dedicated to providing a specialized home for select carnivore species,” remains closed until further notice.

Calls for North Carolina regulators to crack down on unaccredited exhibitors of wild animals have ensued.

This in itself is a major issue not only in the United States but around the world. Wild and exotic animals should not be in captivity. 

Sadly, an appalling incident that occurred on January 1st, further supports WAN’s position that accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or a crackdown on nonaccredited facilities is not the answer. Both serve as band-aids instead of solutions to the rampant abuse and exploitation of animals in any environment other than their natural habitats; where they are free to be as nature intended.

A two-year-old girl was hospitalized at the beginning of 2019, after falling into a rhino exhibit at the “AZA accredited” Brevard Zoo in Florida.

According to reports, the child stumbled and fell in-between two of the poles which resulted in the snout of at least one of the rhinos making contact with the child.

The Zoo claims on its website that it has offered this “hands-on, educational experience where visitors can brush the rhinos with two-foot-long brushes” since 2009, without incident. Really?

“Our number one concern is the safety and welfare of our guests and our hearts go out to the family,” Keith Winsten, the Zoo’s Executive Director, said in a statement. “Safety has always been of paramount importance to us and we are suspending these encounters until we have thoroughly reviewed our processes and procedures to ensure this cannot happen again.”

What about the safety and welfare of the animals in captivity?

The center also acknowledges the lack of “AZA accreditation” on its website, noting that “facilities with more limited income must carefully choose how to allocate their resources.”

While WAN obviously supports higher safety standards to be implemented to protect the poor animals that should not be held in captivity in the first place, it is important to recognize the bigger picture of why holding wild and exotic animals in captivity for so-called “entertainment” or misguided “educational” purposes should never be permitted.

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