Slightly over one month ago, we published an article detailing the horrors experienced by animals at SeaWorld and various other zoos around the globe. Last week, we followed it up with some depressing pictures that should make everyone think twice before ever visiting either of those establishments again. Both times, the results have overwhelmingly suggested people are in agreement with the belief that zoos and SeaWorld are pretty awful places for humans, and that doesn’t even begin to describe how terrible they are to the thousands of animal occupants they hold captive.
Unfortunately, the sheer number of uncaring and abusive zookeepers is so large, we’ve still barely scratched the surface on this problem. There are still an incredible number of images out there detailing the fact that animals, forced to entertain an audience they don’t understand for literal peanuts, don’t belong in cages. Worse than that, the conditions in some zoos, not to mention all three SeaWorlds, is nowhere near suitable for the animals. Lions, tigers, and bears need so much more space than zoos offer, it’ll have you screaming “Oh my!” and it should be no surprise the same thing is true of gigantic orca whales, elephants, and other such mammoth creatures.
For true animal lovers, the following article may not be for the weak at heart. Those of us who feel especially strongly about animals in pain might be taken through the ringer with this one, as some of the treatment these creatures receive on a daily basis is truly deplorable. If you think you can handle the gritty details, keep reading for 15 more heartbreaking images proving that zoos and SeaWorld are low-key evil.
15. Another Saga of Polar Heartbreak
The story of Arturo the Polar Bear was sad enough, as he became extremely depressed after his lifelong companion died suddenly on top of the horrible conditions he was forced to live in. As it would turn out, tragedy is unusually common amongst polar bears in captivity, as Szenja, a creature housed in the San Diego SeaWorld until her death in April 2017, experienced a very similar fate. The only difference is that instead of Szenja’s companion dying, he was transferred from SeaWorld to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium to be used for breeding. Now, some might argue that polar bears can’t be friends with one another or that pimping out an animal like this is A-Okay if it furthers the existence of their species. To the first point, maybe animals don’t have human friendship, but they do clearly become close to one another, as Szenja’s noted depression and sudden death after her love’s loss both make clear.
14. Whales In The Wind, Watch How They Soar
Just in case that picture of the whale getting captured didn’t drive the point home, let’s take a look at another orca as it gets awkwardly transported over land by a series of helicopters. This is easily the most unnatural image on our list and the sort of thing we’d expect to see in the diary of a deranged supervillain. As it would turn out, though, all that’s being plotted here is the next Shamu or equivalent. No matter how little you believe what whales “feel” in the sense humans do, it should be obvious this is in no way comfortable for the creature, its fins jutting out of random holes through a broken net, it’s body just barely kept hydrated by some loose towels and a weird pink sponge. It gets worse from there, as this whale, in particular, Narnia, was being transported to a Russian aquarium that hadn’t even been built yet, and his holding cell before completion was barely bigger than his body.
13. Locked Behind Bars For Life
For once, the thousand-yard stare worn by every lemur ever photographed doesn’t look hilariously ripe for memes but rather wholly appropriate to the unfortunate creature’s fate. This list has focused a lot on either giant animals like elephants, whales, and tigers needing more space than zoos can provide or those trapped in environments unlike their own, so it felt right to finish things off with a smaller, more adaptable creature that’s still clearly unhappy with its situation. The terror of zoos isn’t something causing only the star attractions to suffer; nor is it just to the blight of those furthest away from home, kept in the most captivity. Absolutely no animal living in a zoo wants to be there. The only logical counter-argument is that zoo animals don’t know the difference, which might be true in a literal sense, but they definitely know things aren’t as they’re supposed to be. In short, even a lemur can tell getting stuck behind bars for its life sucks.
12. Arturo the Depressed Panda
Meet Arturo the polar bear, recognized world over, until his death in 2016, as the world’s most depressed animal. Granted, that’s not exactly something humans can measure, yet Arturo’s story definitely offers a few reasons why he may deserve the title. It starts out, like all animals living in zoos, with the fact he was taken away from his homeland and family in the US at a young age and was sent to Argentina so children could gawk at him. It gets worse from there, though, as Argentina has a notably hot environment, reaching around 40° C on average, while polar bears usually reside in temperatures on the exact opposite side of the scale, -40° C. Then, there are the facts that his cage was also way too small, the little water surrounding him was always dirty, and on top of it all, his lifetime companion, Pelusa, died of cancer in 2012, leaving him pretty much the only living member of his species in all of South America. Despite many petitions to get Arturo moved to a zoo that could better meet his needs, the poor bear died in 2016, still stuck in Argentina.
11. Lacking The Bear Necessities
Generally speaking, zoos aren’t good places for animals to live, and that’s when zoo owners are making some small effort to match the inhabitants’ natural habitat. Hopefully, anyone reading this article to actually a visit a zoo in person went to one with plenty of trees, water, and other various implements of nature to make the animals almost feel at home. That’s not quite the case at the Kaliningrad Zoo, where this poor bear is living in something closer to a concrete dungeon. While zookeepers might argue that camera angles are everything and that there’s a gorgeous oasis on the other half of his cell, wiser minds probably realize that isn’t the case, or else the bear would be in that part of his enclosure and not sadly leaning against a wall of concrete. The fact that mold is clearly growing all over the walls makes it even worse, as it shows the bear’s horrible prison cell isn’t even washed regularly.
10. Chewing His Way To Freedom
On the surface, if any of the images on this list look anything close to cute, it might be this one. In essence, it’s an adorable monkey chewing on something it’s not supposed to be chewing on as adorable monkeys are wont to do. The thing is, though, this monkey isn’t chewing on the steel bars of its cage to make humans laugh or even to entertain its fellow simians (of which there appear to be none). Typically, zoo animals chew on their bars either because they have no food or because they’re desperately trying to get out. Either way, this is a far cry from a hilarious situation that zoo visitors are longing to see. Looking around the monkey’s enclosure, it’s no surprise he wants to get out, as it looks like another barren pit and not the jungle atmosphere he’d prefer to live in. Sadly, the lack of bare necessities also implies the poor guy could be hungry as well.
9. This Whale Has All The Problems
Last time we made one of these lists, SeaWorld had it pretty tough, as we zeroed in on the various medical issues practically every whale they featured suffers throughout their entire lives. To sum all that up with one quick recap, here’s one single whale experiencing pretty much every single problem possible for a whale in captivity. There are rake marks across its body, caused by other animals biting it. It has a severely collapsed dorsal fin, a sign it doesn’t have enough room to exercise and swim the way it wants to, something that almost never happens in the wild. And lastly, the whale’s teeth have experienced heavy dental work, something that would’ve been both unnecessary and, well, impossible had the whale never been forced into captivity. Sadly, just about every whale entertaining for the public has the same problem.
8. This Tiger Doesn’t Look All That Grrreat
How can it possibly get any worse for the few sad animals we’ve already shown living in concrete jail cells? Well, how about by giving them a giant pond of disgustingly yellow water to make it even less like a place any living creature would want to be stuck inside. This tiger was photographed by Gaston Lacombe, an environmental journalist looking to outline the fact animals like this tiger don’t have anywhere near the amount of space they need. Appropriately, it’s part of a series Lacombe calls “Captive,” the only word that truly describes the fate most animals in zoos suffer. Of course, the fact this tiger doesn’t have enough room to prowl and run around is secondary to the concrete all around it. In turn, the yellow water outranks even the concrete in the list of reasons this would be a horrible place to live.
7. The Sad Tale Of Hanako the Elephant
While the conditions zoo animals live in are pretty horrible all around, at least they tend to have other creatures of their species around to make things a little more palatable. In many respects, they match humans in this way, which might be why we relate to them so strongly. However, take away any semblance of a community, and life in a concrete cell goes from sounding like an unwarranted prison sentence to time in the hole known as solitary confinement. This is the fate Hanako the Elephant suffered for some 67 years, robbed of his homeland in Africa at the age of two and sentenced to life imprisonment at Park Zoo in Tokyo, once called “the cruelest zoo in the modern world.” Looking at Hanako, it already looks like Park Zoo deserves that title. It’s amazing Hanako managed to survive for so long, as most elephants kept in captivity die three times younger than those in the wild. Of course, those concerned with quality of life probably agree Hanako’s 69 years on Earth couldn’t have been all that great.
6. Longing To Swing From The Trees
Sometimes, an animal doesn’t even need to show its face to absolutely break humanity’s heart. Truth be told, we know almost nothing about this monkey; nor does anyone else except the person who took the picture of it. That said, one need not know this monkey’s life story to understand the symbol its small struggle represents. The whole point of this list is to point out that animals deserve to be in the wild, swinging from trees, running through jungles, and doing hundreds of other things that are simply impossible to recreate on an infinitely smaller scale. All anyone could ever say to argue this fact is that the animals might get used to it or that maybe they don’t mind all that much. That doesn’t seem all too likely, and the fact this encaged monkey is desperately attempting to grab for some leaves it will never reach disproves it outright.
5. Captivity Doesn’t Get This Seal’s Approval
Any time a submarine is featured on television or in film, there’s an inevitable shot of a person riding the watercraft while looking out its windows underwater, taking in the awe and majesty of the ocean firsthand. This is something no sea creature should need to experience, what with living in the real deal all their lives. Unfortunately, as photographer Daniel Zakharov’s Modern Wilderness series documented, specifically with this picture of a sad seal, staring out a window at a freedom it may never again explore, SeaWorld and other aquariums are taking that joy away from every animal they house. Looking at the little pieces of this seal’s conditions visible in the photo, it’s no surprise the seal would want to escape to the outside world even if it weren’t longing for a return to its natural habitat. There’s barely any water in the dirty enclosure, and the walls and floors are covered in moldy flakes, conditions that would make any creature pine for the clean waters only mother nature can provide.
4. This Zoo Isn’t The Greatest Of All Time
Similar to our monkey friend earlier, trying to chew his way to freedom, this goat almost looks like a comedian upon first glance. Were a human prisoner to stick his head through his cell while wagging his tongue, that’s definitely the impression he would send (unless he was behind for murder or something serious, in which case, it would be terrifying). However, once again, we’re reminded that animals don’t ever play it for laughs, and this goat is the way it is for reasons that aren’t humorous in the slightest. Sadly, this goat is trapped in a zoo in the war-torn Gaza Strip. Like all other animal creatures in that area, the constant battles waged between humans on differing sides have made it impossible for zookeepers to care for the animals, leaving behind literally starving, slowly dying creatures like this one. The goat’s tongue is probably out of its mouth due to dehydration, and its head is between bars because it can’t stop trying to escape no matter how futile the action may be.
3. Shackled And Forced To Perform
There may be some people reading this list and wondering why it’s so bad for animals to be stuck in tinier spaces than they’re used to, and putting it bluntly, we don’t have the time to explain the concept of decency in this article. However, even skeptics who don’t understand why elephants need more space than people on a natural, biological level have to realize that keeping any animal literally enchained for no reason at all is borderline cruelty. Somehow, though, these are the exact conditions experienced by elephants held captive by the Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia. Not one, but two, elephants are held at the zoo with chains so tight they cut into their legs and make it absolutely impossible for the massive creatures to move at all. Apparently, the owners keep them like this because it’s easier than actually paying attention to them. Yeah, that’s their actual excuse.
2. Stuck In The Mud
For anyone out there who discovered their love of animals through the classic Disney film Bambi, this one might sting the hardest. One aspect of that film that made it so popular was the wonder in Bambi’s eyes as he got his first glimpses of the world around him, taking in nature at its fullest and loving every minute of it. Not so for the various deer living at the Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo, forced instead to traverse through thick muddy waters next to a giant, decaying, dead tree. Believe it or not, these deer are actually better off than several others in the zoo, as reports indicate that many are constantly in shackles and that others are so underfed they’ve resorted to eating their own feces. Unsurprisingly, this has made many of the animals incredibly sick, as have the generally horrible conditions they’re forced to reside in. Recently, online petitions have been going around attempting to get these deer and all other animals in the zoo to sanctuaries or back in the wild.
1. A Sad Reminder Of How SeaWorld Finds Its Stars
Whenever a person tries to defend the zoo or SeaWorld as entertainment, all one really has to do to counter that argument is show a picture like this one. While the above photograph shows only one whale’s struggle, almost every single zoo animal in captivity went through the exact same thing before it became a public attraction. The only zoo creatures free of this treatment were the ones specifically bred to raise ticket sales, because people love looking at baby pandas for some reason, so long as they never have to think about how that panda’s parents came to meet one another. There’s almost nothing separating a person hunting an animal from one of the people in this photograph, tying one up in ropes and taking it away from nature for pleasure, except the torture will last much, much longer in the latter case.
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