Zoos are no place for pandas. And the reasons Toronto Zoo board members are using aren’t captivating enough.
Toronto is a “multicultural community that we haven’t enjoyed for the last 35 years” and the bears would “bring us aspects of the community,” says Peter Evans, acting Toronto Zoo CEO. But what exactly is his message?
If he means migrating Chinese animals into the Toronto Zoo will somehow create more cultural diversity in Canada, that’s not a good enough reason to spend millions of dollars.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti predicts zoo attendance will increase by 700,000 a year. The zoo could see a jump in revenue, of up to $10 million in the first year. But this isn’t certain.
What is certain, however, is the $12 million cost on walls to confine pandas, or rather, “cave-like dwellings,” according to various publications — a far cry from their lush green wildlife.
The zoo would be taking away the freedom the pandas get when living in their natural habitat.
Sure, they may live longer. Giant pandas can live 25-30 years in captivity, unlike the 10-20 years in the wild, but what about their quality of life?
Like other animals confined in zoos, studies have shown pandas can suffer from behavioral problems, become overweight, and are unable to mate normally. Also, the birth and survival rate of cubs in captivity have been so low that most are now bred by artificial insemination.
Instead of parading $20-million pandas in “cave-like dwellings,” there are other ways to educate the public on conservation issues. Host fundraisers, give speeches, or get children involved in school environmental clubs and projects.
The Toronto Zoo just had the Yo-Yo for the Dodo event to raise awareness for endangered species. There’s an example.
Money should be spent on preserving wildlife habitats and reserves instead of building facilities for pandas.
This past summer, Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said Canada and China need to talk “zookeeper to zookeeper” to ensure that the pandas are given proper care and nutrition. Has this been done, yet?
The zoo should be promoting captivity as a way of improving the well-being of pandas, instead of viewing them as cash cows — or in this case, cash pandas.
It can at least try to put at ease the minds of people who are sensitive about the captivity of animals.