Lonely Zoo Gorilla Dies



Sad-eyed Hobbit, who was 26-year old when he died, was a male Western Lowland Silverback gorilla who arrived in South Africa in 1988 from the Jersey Zoo in the UK on a long-term loan agreement with the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria. He had been kept for more than ELEVEN years, in solitary confinement. Gorillas are indigenous Africans who are powerful, intelligent, peaceful vegetarians, and who live in close-knit family groups, and like humans, gorillas have unique needs and personalities. However, Hobbit’s zoo enclosure ensured that he was kept imprisoned and denied him from enjoying even the most basic behavioural repertoire including exercise and social interaction.

“Captivity killed Hobbit. He had type II diabetes mellitus which develops in primates in captivity because of stress, lack of exercise, inappropriate diet and obesity. Although Animal Rights Africa (ARA) is saddened by Hobbit’s death, at least now he is at peace and his tormented, sad, depressed, lonely and empty life has finally come to an end. The unjust life sentence for this innocent victim is thankfully now finally over” said spokesperson Michele Pickover. Zoos are a relic of a bygone age - a Victorian and colonial concept which, as our knowledge of the animal kingdom grows, becomes even less palatable. They are morally and socially offensive exhibits which involve cruelty to animals they distract from the need to address the reasons why animals become endangered and to do something about their environment and habitat. Animal Rights Africa is totally opposed to the incarceration of animals and believes that zoos misinform rather than educate, and further, divert funds from positive and ethical conservation. Animals remain threatened or are even driven to extinction, whilst precious resources are drained away on expensive, high-profile breeding projects with no serious hope of success.

The very nature of most zoos would doom any conservation efforts to failure. Captive-breeding projects need to be as close as possible to the ultimate release site, certainly in terms of climate, habitat and fauna. The animals need space appropriate to their needs and populations large enough to provide a suitable gene pool and a natural social balance of the species, with minimal human contact. Zoos and safari parks keep solitary or unnaturally small groups of misplaced animals in substandard artificial habitats, permanently on show, thousands of miles from where the animals belong. Zoos claim that seeing a live wild animal gives an unparalleled appreciation of the power and wonder of nature, but what are they really showing us? TV wildlife programmes have ensured that our understanding of these animals extends beyond these pathetic exhibits. Indeed, ARA believes school trips to zoos leave children with a distorted view of wildlife.

Animals become threatened because of a variety of environmental factors - all too often, the destruction of their habitat by humans. Protection of natural habitats can actually be cheaper than keeping animals in zoos. Animal Rights Africa urges the National Zoological Gardens not to perpetuate this endless cycle of cruelty and not to acquire another gorilla for exhibition but, rather to put money into the conservation of gorillas in the wild. According to Pickover, “not only has the law in South Africa failed animals in zoos, but ordinary people who support them need to inform themselves about the role of zoos in the trade in wild animals and the effects zoos have on individual animals’ lives. Please THINK before supporting zoos.”

Contact persons for ARA:
Steve Smit +27 (0) 82 659 4711
Michele Pickover +27 (0) 82 253 2124
ARA email - info@animalrightsafrica.org
ARA website – www.animalrightsafrica.org

From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann