Wild animals are kept in captivity for a variety of reasons and in a wide range of environments, including in zoos, circuses, other performing environments and in people’s homes as pets.
Looking after wild animals
To care for any animal well takes time, money, interest and knowledge - not just to prevent it suffering, but also to make sure it gets everything it needs, which is a legal requirement under the Animal Welfare Act.
Giving animals, especially wild ones, what they need can prove a bit challenging to say the least! It’s important that the needs of the animal are met, so we’ve put together some care information on more commonly kept non-domestic animals in our exotic pets section to try and help. We think that if you can’t meet the needs of an animal then you shouldn’t try and keep it.
In some circumstances, we believe it's best not to keep certain types of wild animal at all because of the conditions they are subjected to, particularly if the animal is only there to entertain. Examples include primates as pets, dolphins in dolphinaria, elephants in zoos and wild animals in circuses.
Providing a suitable environment
Generally, the bigger the difference between conditions in captivity and in the wild, the greater the risk to animal welfare. The best captive environments will mimic elements of an animal’s natural surroundings.
This isn’t to say the wild is an idyllic place free from all problems – it’s not! But animals have evolved over thousands of years, adapting to live in certain types of natural environment. Placing animals in very different surroundings can cause stress and behaviour problems.
. . . breeding animals for a few generations doesn’t wipe out thousands of years of evolution.
Animals bred and kept in captivity are vulnerable to welfare problems because breeding animals for a few generations doesn’t wipe out thousands of years of evolution. A tiger born in a circus has essentially the same needs as a tiger born in the wild.