The past week has presented the world with three more examples of botched zoo management, which fit into the dizzying array of issues regarding wildlife captivity, zoo safety, and the protection of both people and animals.
Despite our profound love for elephants and amazement at their very existence, humans have a unique, inexplicable capacity to bring pain and suffering to individual elephants as we simultaneously engage in behaviors that hasten their demise in the wild.
Being a wild gorilla is far more dangerous than being a zoo-born gorilla. Yet the wild is the only slim hope of true survival; zoos are dead-ends for creatures whose dismantled native habitat makes reintroduction impossible.
Instead of seeking justice for Harambe, or improving zoo policies or exhibit design, we should first ask what, precisely, are we conserving in zoos? In my view, we are perpetuating an outmoded worldview rooted in colonialism.
The killing of the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo has received the attention one could only expect. I don't care to join in the bashing and blaming, but I do think this is the right time to ask a far more basic question. Why do we need zoos?