Wild animals 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.
Giving wild animals what they need in captivity can prove challenging! The best captive environment mimics elements of an animal’s natural surroundings in the wild.
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.
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.
Placing an animal in surroundings that are unsuitable for the species can cause stress and behavioural problems. Animals kept in an improper environment or fed the wrong diet can suffer, resulting in illness or death.
In some environments, we believe it's best not to keep certain wild animals at all, as their needs cannot be met - particularly if the animal is there for entertainment. Examples are;
- Primates as pets,
- Elephants in zoos (PDF 1158KB),
- Whales and dolphins in dolphinaria,
- Wild animals in circuses.
If you cannot meet the needs of an animal then you should not keep that animal.