Written by Bridget Conway
On Saturday 25th January, a mere twelve days after four white lion cubs were born at the Zoodoo Wildlife Park in Richmond, Tasmania, the cubs were revealed to the public. Not only that, but the cubs have been removed from the full-time care of their mother, Kiara, to be hand-raised by the keepers.
Zoodoo owner Trevor Cuttriss stated that ‘hand raising these four lion cubs means that the cubs will not fear humans, nor will they be stressed in their captive environments, frantically trying to escape.’
A filmmaker shooting video of the cubs frolicking around stated that captive environment births such as this one show hope ‘around the world that extinct animals in the wild can be raised once again in a wildlife zoo or park.’
The Zoodoo Wildlife Park has numerous captive animals and is ‘one of the largest wildlife parks in Tasmania.’ It also boasts that visitors can ‘get closer to some of your favourite animals’ and this is probably due to the fact that they hand-raise the majority of their animals. This is all fine and dandy for tourist and attraction purposes. But Dr. Patrick Guay, an ecologist at Victoria University, states that ‘if you don’t provide [animals] with a similar environment to their wild habitat, the captive animals won’t have the same behaviour as those in the wild.’
Back in 2012, Guay conducted a study on captive animals vs. wild animals, which has shown that captivity reduces brain size in animals and can actually in some cases be harmful towards rehabilitating the species and establishing them back into the wild. A new Australian study has shown that stripe-faced dunnarts, a type of marsupial, retain the same brain-size as wild dunnarts only when they are bred for a short period of time in captivity.
Not only can brain size and behaviour change in captive animals, but captivity can also cause problems with exercise, life span, disease, injury and socialisation. One only needs to spend a few hours at a local zoo to see that animals in captivity are rarely happy and/or healthy.
Hand raising may make it safe for keepers to cuddle these new lion cubs, but it will never make them adept to living a life that they were meant to live. They will never be able to hunt or make it in the wild and will have to spend their life in captivity because there is nowhere else for them. Which begs the question – when and how will we start to reintroduce these beautiful extinct animals back into nature when all of them are too trusting of humans and have lost their natural instincts?
Bridget – “I am a young writer originally from America, who moved to Australia 6 years ago. Since then I have obtained a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and Theatre with an honours in Australian contemporary literature that focuses on posthumanism and animal liberation. This year I will be starting a PhD in Humanities focusing on science fiction literature, art, media and theory and it’s relation to post humanism. I have been vegetarian for 10 years now and have never looked back! I love animals and have devoted myself to them time and time again. Words are my weapon in this battle, which can be especially important because animals are without words.”