Break the fence and escape
On a recent drive home from work I noticed a circus off I-880. The advertisements featured tigers, which immediately caught my attention. I fantasized about how to meet the tigers, partly to have a close encounter and partly to assess their conditions in circus captivity. Needless to say, nothing came of these fantasies.
I’m not the only one interested in the health and well-being of captive animals. A recent article in Animal Welfare describes the results of a study designed to assess the welfare of animals in circuses. Not surprisingly, circus life is unhealthy for wild animals. A combination of lack of space, social contact and exercise is beastly; when combined with stage performance and travel conditions, the confinement of animals to a circus is simply brutal.
Stars of the show they may be, but elephants, lions and tigers are the wild animals least suited to life in a circus, concludes the first global study of animal welfare in circuses.
“It’s no one single factor,” says Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol, UK, and lead researcher of the study. “Whether it’s lack of space and exercise, or lack of social contact, all factors combined show it’s a poor quality of life compared with the wild,” he says.
The survey concludes that on average, wild animals spend just 1 to 9 per cent of their time training, and the rest confined to cages, wagons or enclosures typically covering a quarter the area recommended for zoos.
Worst affected are elephants, lions, tigers and bears. Often they’re confined to cages where they pace up and down for hours on end.
“Even if they are in a larger, circus pen, there’s no enrichment such as logs to play with, in case they use them to break the fence and escape,” says Harris.
(from New Scientist)
Where in the world is there a home for such fierce predators?