Captive Wildlife Crisis Snapshot

How did the captive wildlife crisis originate? 

In the mid-1900’s, some zoos believed prolific breeding demonstrated the zoo’s success in captive wildlife management, while many others admittedly saw cute baby animals as a fool proof way to bolster public attendance. In either case, captive populations grew to unsustainable levels, as size limitations and budget constraints shackled most zoos. Continual births left zoos little choice but to euthanize animals of their own creation or surplus the animals into the private sector.

By leaving the surplus animals’ destiny in the hands of animal traders, who saw nothing but profit in their excess, public zoos unwittingly set the stage for what was to become a captive wildlife crisis over the next forty years; thousands of seeds were planted for captive wildlife breeding, commercialization and abuse.

Exotic animals such as lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and a whole host of other species (many of which were threatened or endangered) began to permeate the backyards & basements of the world. Exploited in every way - and bred by the thousands in exotic equivalents to “puppy mills” - their numbers grew exponentially.

Today, these animals can be found everywhere from extravagant Las Vegas magic shows, to shopping malls, roadside zoos and even in people’s backyards, basements and garages.

Further compounding the problem, private citizens would often breed these animals to sell newborns as pets, which only adds to the already-high numbers of captive wildlife living outside of the public zoo system. Often, owners would fail to have the means to properly care and feed their animals and would as a result abandon them. Authorities would then be forced to euthanize the animals (if they were unable to find a properly licensed sanctuary).

How big is the captive wildlife crisis?

Estimates as high as 30,000 large carnivores are kept privately in the United States (outside the zoo system!)  Between 5,000 and 10,000 tigers live in captivity in the United States alone (far more than in the wild).

Each day, dozens of these animals become homeless or abandoned. They often face euthanasia if authorities are unable to place them in a properly licensed facility.

What can be done to help solve the captive wildlife crisis?

·      Get educated and spread awareness on the captive wildlife crisis.

·      Support legislation that will make it illegal to own or breed exotic wildlife.

·      Support a wild animal sanctuary for rescue animals.