Looking to the Future

Throughout this series, I have learned exactly how complex the issue of keeping wild animals in captivity is. While there are some benefits, many practices are simply unnecessary, cruel, and outdated. However just as my understanding of animal welfare concerns regarding captivity has deepened through my exploration of the topic, so has public opinion on this issue in recent years, sparking some changes. As I mentioned in previous posts, this includes SeaWorld’s decision to end orca breeding and Ringling Brother’s decision to not have elephants in their shows. In this last post, I would like to look into some recent developments and conclude what this means for the future of how animals are kept in captivity.

Image from Google.
Image by PETA from Google

Major companies have shown signs of shifting in the right direction in the phasing out of animal entertainment now seem as inhumane. In October, the popular travel website TripAdviser announced that it would no longer be selling tickets to attractions in which visitors engage with wild animals. This decision was made in cooperation with animal organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Global Wildlife Conservation. This new policy pertains to not places like zoos or aquariums, but rather attractions that include activities like “elephant rides, swimming-with-dolphin experiences and the petting of endangered species like tigers.” Additionally, the website will create a “wildlife tourism education portal” in order to make travelers more aware of animal welfare issues and to sway them into putting more thought into what animal attractions they visit and how they review those places. This is partially in response to an Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit study which found that while “between two million and four million tourists per year pay to visit attractions that are considered harmful to animal welfare”, most of these visitors do not even raise any of these concerns in their TripAdviser reviews.  Ultimately, in what PETA called a “precedent-setting move”, TripAdviser is taking a stand against the cruel exploitation of animals practiced by many facilities around the world, even in the United States, and encouraging the public to not support such facilities, as well hopefully influencing other travel companies to follow their lead.

National Aquarium’s planned dolphin sanctuary. Image from Google.

In another influential move, the National Aquarium in Baltimore announced recently that it would be creating North America’s first dolphin sanctuary, a decision that opens a new door to the possibilities of how we house captive wild animals. It is expected to be completed in 2020, with all their dolphins being moved to this more natural oceanside environment, likely to be either located in Florida or the Caribbean. This decision comes after much debate over keeping cetaceans in captivity, as seen in the film “Blackfish”. The aquarium has already stopped its dolphin performance shows. They base this shift on, as the aquarium’s chief executive officer describes, “emerging science and consultation with experts”, which have shown that dolphins “thrive when they can form social groups, have opportunities to express natural behaviors and live in a habitat as similar as possible to that for which nature so superbly designed them.” This new site will not only be much larger, but will also include natural stimuli like fish and marine plants, a great step up from the dolphins’ current aquarium pool. As the CEO puts it, they are trying to operate in a way in which “the needs and interests of the dolphins will come first”, which will hopefully be a trend going forward when it comes to these kinds of facilities.

Image from Google.

Such advances have made it clear to me that our view of animals and what we see as acceptable ways to keep and interact with them in captivity is evolving. Even great institutions like the National Aquarium have room for improvement, even if that means making drastic and unprecedented changes. Hopefully such changes will continue, paving the way for a future in which we humans have a more respectful and considerate relationship with our fellow inhabitants of the earth.


PSA: Support AZA Zoos


To encourage adults, specifically parents, to support Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoos in their efforts to save endangered species, I created a poster that appeals to the desire of parents to create a better future for their children. Mainly, I wanted to show that the mass extinction crisis is a serious issue, and we must take action now if we want to save future generations from a world of desolation.

In designing my poster, my target audience was parents because, while going to the zoo is a common activity they do with their children, I believe much more consideration should be given to the bigger picture, the situation these animals are in in the wild and how that will impact the world their children inherit. While this issue does deal a good amount with empathy for animals, I decided to make children a central point of my poster because that encourages parents even more so to support the cause. For this reason, I included the picture of the young girl looking at the penguins, which I thought parents would be able to see their own children in and relate to. Additionally, I used words like “our children” to convey that this must be a joint effort, and essentially every parent wants the same for their children, a good future. Ultimately, I wanted to get across that parents should seriously consider how they can contribute to the efforts being made to save endangered animals, especially if they truly want the best for their children and even their children’s children.

To further get across my message, I tried to convey the seriousness of the issue. Though there are many factors contributing to the unprecedented amount of animal species becoming endangered in today’s world, I chose to go with climate change because it is something most people are familiar with. Additionally, I decided on penguins as my example of a threatened species because they are a very popular and endearing animal, so I felt my audience would be particularly alarmed at their possible extinction. Currently the species is endangered due mainly to the effects of global warming like melting sea ice. To communicate this, I included a picture of many penguins huddled on a melting iceberg, in order to show that they are in a dire situation. At the same time, I believe the picture highlights their isolation and how, being that they are not exactly in our backyard, it is easy for us humans to overlook this issue. Furthermore, I used extreme language like “a world without penguins” to almost shock the audience with how real this mass extinction crisis is.

Through my poster I also wanted to convey the emotional connection we humans, especially children, have with animals, in order to make it more clear why it is important that we support efforts to protect them. I chose to use the picture of the girl looking at the penguins because I believe the expression on her face says a lot. Not only can you see her pure joy from observing the animals, but it also shows the innocence of the relationship between children and animals. However, like the girl in the picture, though children love these animals, there is not much they can do to in this situation nor are they probably even aware that the animals they love may not be around much longer. This picture I believe also provides a clear answer to the question asked in the poster, that we should not want our children to grow up in a world without penguins. I basically wanted to demonstrate that we have a duty to the future generations to do all we can to protect endangered species, and that the smile on the girl’s face should show us why animals are so important to our world.

With this PSA poster I hoped awaken parents, along with any adults who care about the future of our planet and humanity, to the threat of mass extinction on some of our most beloved species, and encourage them to take action. Zoos play an important role in allowing children to experience and develop a love for animals. Yet it is also important to understand that taking animals for granted and treating them simply as entertainment, with no regard to their situation in the wild, is not only doing a disservice to the animals but also to the children that will be inheriting this world. Through visiting AZASavingSpecies.org and learning how they can contribute, I believe the audience of this poster will be able to take the first steps in creating a better future for our planet and our children.

Image sources
Child and penguins: http://cdn.funkidslive.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ZSL-London-Zoo-Penguins.jpg
Penguins of iceberg: http://img-aws.ehowcdn.com/615×200/ds-photo/getty/article/106/222/452628461_XS.jpg

Other Prototypes:

(Child and orangutan: http://blogs.sandiegozoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Janey-and-child.jpg, Orangutan: https://blogs.ntu.edu.sg/hp331-2015-03/files/2015/11/Habitat-Loss-1-20qsm3b.jpg, Child and tigers: http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2014-04-09-JulieLarsenMaher9123TigerswithVisitorChildandToyBZTM111510reduced.jpg, Tiger: http://assets.worldwildlife.org/photos/9616/images/story_full_width/HI_257788.jpg?1438089923)