Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Life Behind Bars. Prison or Sanctuary?



Cheetah in Captivity at Emdoneni Lodge, Jan. 2016

Animals possess such  beauty and mystery, traits which we as humans are drawn to, whether it be an ant carrying an object 10 times its own size, or a cheetah reaching impossible speeds of over 100km/hr. Many different programs and facilities have been built for animals, whether for breeding, rehabilitation, education or entertainment.

In my previous blog I spoke about the effects that captivity can have on an animal’s behavior, in particular the effects humans can have on them but it is not all negative, due to the immense study of animals we have been able to share some understanding and help those in need. This blog will be exploring some of the different facilities in which animals are being kept and the conditions they are living in.

Unfortunately many animals have become threatened or endangered,  which is why many breeding programs have been established with the hope of releasing populations back into the wild to avoid becoming extinct. Programs such as the Mt Rothwell biodiversity interpretation centre  which hold some of the last remaining populations of threatened species including the mainland Eastern Barred Bandicoot, Red Bellied Pademelon and Eastern Quoll.


Mt Rothwell, biodiversity interpretation centre

Emdoneni Lodge in South Africa also has a release program for Cheetahs, Servals, Caracals and African Wildcats, where cats have been born in captivity or rehabilitated back into the wild. Rehabilitation centres have so many benefits, Emdoneni Lodge has become a well known facility in the area where local authorities bring sick or injured cats to be rehabilitated, in hope of releasing them back to their natural habitats, however sometimes it is not beneficial for the cat to be sent back (eg. loss of sight), in which case the cats are kept, cared for and often introduced to the breeding program.


Cheetah enclosure at Emdoneni Lodge

Having an education of animals is important, we all love visiting zoos to see the animals, many zoos and wildlife parks have school programs designed for different ages to learn about the animals and their habitats in a fun interesting way, such as Zoos Victoria. Many zoos are not only for the enjoyment of tourists but also apart of international breeding programs (eg. Werribee Open Range Zoo), where millions of dollars have been funded into the enclosures alone in order to try and replicate their natural habitats as best as possible. Unfortunately, not all zoos worldwide share the same ideals and are simply about the tourism and the financial benefit it can claim. The images below are an example of differences in zoo treatments, both images are from the official websites of lions in their enclosures:


Lion at Werribee Open Range Zoo


Lion at Egypt Zoo







Unfortunately when it comes to entertainment, animals have a higher risk of cruelty. Throughout history, wild animals have been captured and put in arenas, circuses, or simply kept for personal entertainment and status (more on the history of animals in captivity in my next blog), fortunately most countries have criminalized the capturing of wild animals, however some public facilities are keeping the ‘legal’ animals in what should be illegal conditions. I believe, if animals are in captivity there should be a benefit for the animal itself, not just for the entertainment of others.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”, Gandhi.



About kirstyleemcnamara

I am currently in my third year at Deakin University, studying Zoology and Animal Science. I spent 3 weeks volunteering in South Africa.

5 comments on “Life Behind Bars. Prison or Sanctuary?

  1. dlcd31
    April 29, 2016

    I also believe animals should be in their natural environments, but at the same time, some animals are endangered and need to be put into breeding programs in order to make sure they do not become extinct. Animals should only be kept in captivity for their own personal benefit rather than for tourism. And by captivity, it shouldn’t be small enclosures like the cage in Egypt. That’s why I love Werribee Zoo so much more than Melbourne Zoo. At Melbourne Zoo, they are in small enclosures whereas at Werribee Zoo, animals have 225ha of free space to roam around in a habitat that imitates their natural environments.

    You should also mention how that if an animal is in a zoo, they are safe from hunters in which would kill them for fur and ivory. Zoo’s can act as a safe haven for these animals that are being hunted. Treatment of animals has also improved in captivity. There’s also the education of these animals and programs which can teach the next generation how to protect these species.

    On the other hand, it can be cruel as it robs the animal from their rights of living in the wild. Animals may also have physiological impacts due to being confined. Not to mention that animals born in captivity will never get to experience their natural habitat.


    • kirstyleemcnamara
      April 29, 2016

      It’s such a touchy subject as there’s so many pros and cons to each side, I believe it comes down to the reasoning for the animal being in captivity and the conditions in which they’re kept. Hunting and poaching, especially for animals of the Savannah is a serious problem, and I think it falls under the endangerment issue as this is the unfortunate result of hunting and poaching, and so yes captivity is definitely a benefit for these animals

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sineadmcgarrigle
    May 1, 2016

    Animals kept in captivity at all (unless there are benefits like rehabilitation or saving from extinction) is cruelty if not domesticated. Obviously the case for a dog and lion is very different (just wanted to point that out before saying all animals).

    Although Werribee zoo is in an international breeding program, it sister zoo Melbourne Zoo is not, and hold animals in captivity in the middle of a city, with thousands and thousands of km’s of land than what they are meant to have in the wild. In that contrast what is the difference between Melbourne zoo and Eygpts zoo?

    Even if it was in a breeding program is it really cruelty free/benefiting without providing the animals without an appropriate amount of space?

    I also feel as though @dlcd31 comment about being safe from hunters was good and true, but instead of keeping the animals in cages how about banning hunting? Exotic animal populations are dwindling as a whole, especially in the big cat department and hunting is the highest cause.


    • kirstyleemcnamara
      May 1, 2016

      I believe there are means of keeping an animal in captivity that can be beneficial however, I agree that unless there is good reason behind it, they shouldn’t necessarily be.
      However, in relation to Melbourne Zoo, I agree it is no where near the standards of Werrribee but I don’t beleive it can be compared to Egypt Zoo. Egypt Zoo had concrete enclosures where the animals could barely move, also all the animals looked malnourished, where Melbourne have great diets for their animals and yes, they are not ideal but there enclosures definetly suit the animals needs better than Egypt. Also I believe Melbourne Zoo is in the conservation/breeding program, as Zoos Victoria (also including Healesville, all work together.

      The idea of breeding programs is to eventually reintroduce the animals to the wild, to generate a better genetic diversity.

      I totally agree on the hunting, but the problem is that banning hunting doesn’t stop it, most countries have.

      All in all, it is a hard topic as there are many sides to each argument, without fully supporting one or the other


  3. Lisa
    May 5, 2016

    I totally agree that this is such a touchy subject, there are of course pros and cons to each aspect and I myself don’t even know where I stand on this issue, that’s why I found this article so interesting.

    I believe keeping animals in such small enclosures for our own entertainment is cruelty but I know zoos do have purpose, they help us education our children and the next generation about the different types of animals and environments out there. Zoos are also great in terms of the breeding programs and helping raise the numbers of animals that have become targets of poachers in the wild, and I do agree that for this reason, it can be some what of a safe heaven for animals like rhinos and elephants that are continuously hunted for their tucks and horns. Poaching is a huge problem and is drastically effecting the population of these beautiful creatures and in the long wrong, we might not be able to stop poachers but we can rely on these breeding programs.

    But still, when I go to zoos and see these animals, I cant help but feel sad for them. They should be out in the wild thriving.

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on April 24, 2016 by in Geelong - Friday 3pm.

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