Welfare of wild animals in captivity

Wild animals are kept for a variety of reasons and in a range of environments, including zoos, circuses, other performing environments and as pets in homes (known as 'exotic pets'). However, giving wild animals what they need in captivity can prove challenging. 

Breeding animals for a few generations doesn't wipe out thousands of years of evolution; essentially a tiger born in a circus has the same needs as a tiger born in the wild. The best captive environments mimic elements of an animal's natural surroundings in the wild.

We're not saying that the wild is an idyllic place free from problems - it's not! But animals have evolved over thousands of years, adapting to live in certain types of natural environments. This makes keeping them in captivity problematic.

Caring for a wild animal in captivity

Caring for a captive animal takes time, money and knowledge to provide everything the animal needs, such as food, water and the correct environment, to prevent suffering and ensure good welfare. 

Anyone keeping an animal in captivity in England and Wales has a legal obligation to meet that animal's needs under the Animal Welfare Act.

Placing an animal in surroundings that aren't suitable for its species can cause stress and behavioural problems. Animals kept in an unsuitable environment or fed the wrong diet can suffer, and this can lead to illness or death.

When wild animals shouldn't be in captivity

In some environments, we believe it's best not to keep certain wild animals at all, as their needs simply can't be met - particularly if the animal is there for entertainment. Examples are:

Simply put, if you can't meet the needs of an animal, then you shouldn't keep that animal.

Follow the links below to find out more about our concerns about keeping exotic pets and the use of wild animals in circuses.

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