End Animal Captivity


My thoughts are still lingering with Harambe, the silverback gorilla shot on Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens because a mother lost track of her four-year-old son who climbed over a fence and fell into a gorilla enclosure.

Gorillas don’t belong in captivity; they belong in the wild mountain forests of Central Africa. They are herbivores, constantly moving and gathering food.

Humans are rapaciously destroying forests in Africa and around the globe at an accelerated rate. As if ruining their homes were not destructive enough, humans also hunt gorillas. One thousand deadly gorilla traps are set each year.

Gorillas are sensitive and intelligent creatures  they share as much as 99 percent of the same DNA as we do.

Over three years ago in the mountains of Rwanda, three gorillas sprung into action after witnessing a snare brutally kill and elderly gorilla. Those three gorillas  two four-year-olds and a teenager  were later seen disabling a similar snare that had been set to kill them. With good handgrips and nimble fingers, those three gorillas taught themselves how to disarm that deadly trap.

Several years ago, a female gorilla was seen wading into a pool of water that quickly got deep. She retreated to the edge of the pool, found a stick, used it to test the depth of the water and then proceeded across the pool. Gorillas, like human, are toolmakers.

Zoos are not the answer to the destruction of Central African wild forests.

Dolphins are other animals that should never be held in captivity. Dolphins swim hundreds of miles per day. They, too, are toolmakers. The largest dolphin is an orca. Its brain is more than three times larger than a human brain.

It is cruel and inhumane incarcerating dolphins to perform tricks to amuse humans. SeaWorld and other corporations make profits from dolphin slavery, which is currently legal in America. Dolphin slavery has been banned in India, and I predict it will be outlawed shortly in America.

Sea pens re-acclimate orcas back into the wild, before reuniting them with their family pods. There is no reason for imprisoning orcas in concrete bathtub-like structures in the United States of America.

Orcas play a crucial ecological role in the ocean. They are wolves of the sea, keeping their prey fit by culling the old, weak and sick. Orcas fertilize the sea with their feces that is rich in iron and nitrogen. Orca excrement helps phytoplankton  the basis of the entire marine food web. Phytoplankton, along with blue green bacteria called prochlorcoccus, provides humans with almost two out of every three breaths of air. The oceans are missing 40 percent of the phytoplankton due to the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.

When orcas die, their bodies provide essential nutrients for many years to hundreds of organisms on the seafloor. 

It is time for an amnesty for all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). They are apex mammals like humans. Cetaceans are just trying to make a living in the ocean and perform their ecological role. They deserve the right to live in freedom.

I have no use for zoos, nor does Britain’s most famous zoo owner, Damian Aspinall. Wild animals belong in nature, not zoos.

The loss of habitat globally is a disaster. Deforestation globally already destroys 48 football fields every minute, and it is accelerating. Each year, deep sea trawling destroys 150 times more habitat than clear-cutting the ancient forests on land. At this rate of bedlam, humans will run out of wild forests and oceans to pillage by 2040.

Let me remind you that we need nature in order to survive on Earth; nature, on the other hand, does not need us.

So what can you do? I suggest not supporting zoos. Instead, visit and support sanctuaries because they take care of sick wild animals, and when possible, release them back into the wild.

Over half a century ago, Rachel Carson wrote “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe around us, the less taste we will have for destruction.”

Love is the solution.

Earth Doctor Reese Halter is the author of “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.”