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Forced Separation of Panda Mother and Nursing Cub Triggered Emotional and Physical Trauma

September 12, 2019 by Leave a Comment


The News

In 2017, the Smithsonian National Zoo forcibly separated a giant panda from her 18 month old cub so it could artificially inseminate her again. Since then, both mother and cub, who live in adjacent enclosures but cannot see each other, have displayed signs of anxiety, stress, and physical and emotional trauma. At four years old, the cub is now too old to be reunited with his mother, but advocates who fought for over two years to reunite them want the public to know about the needless suffering that these animals endured after the premature separation.

Background

On August 22, 2015, giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to Bei Bei at the Smithsonian National Zoo after being artificially inseminated with sperm from the Zoo’s male panda. In spite of being held in captivity, mother and cub, Mei and Bei, appeared to be happy.

Giant panda Mei with her cub Bei before the Smithsonian National Zoo forcibly separated them in 2017

On February 28, 2017, the Zoo separated Mei and Bei while Bei and moved them into different enclosures. The Zoo executed the forced separation so that it could artificially inseminate Mei again.

“Smithsonian National Zoo officials have been motivated solely by the production of money-making panda cubs. If the welfare of the pandas was their priority, then they would have allowed Mei to raise her baby without interference,” said Michelle Schmitt-DeBonis, an advocate who has been speaking out on behalf of the pandas since their separation. “Zookeepers around the world are well aware of the anguish experienced by forcibly separated mothers and cubs, but they turn a blind eye to it in order to stay focused on the prize – a baby. It’s a real life version of the Handmaid’s Tale.”

Mei and Bei were separated when Bei was 1.5 years old. In the wild, a giant panda mother would typically separate from her cub when the cub is between two and 2.5 years old because pandas are solitary animals. Because Bei is now four years old, he would no longer be living with his mother in the wild. However, given their premature separation, the stressors of captivity, and Mei and Bei’s ongoing efforts to communicate, Schmitt-DeBonis and other advocates believe they should be given the opportunity to at least see each other, even if only through a window.

Bei Bei searches for his mother, Mei Xiang, at the Smithsonian National Zoo after a forced separation.

Since the forced separation, the Zoo has subjected Mei to three rounds of artificial insemination, in spite of how sick the procedures made her. Video footage shows Mei struggling to walk and crying out in pain while locked indoors for weeks at a time. On September 11, 2019, the Zoo announced that the most recent attempt to impregnate her failed. The story was covered in the Washington Post. On September 5, Psychology Today published an essay by veterinarian Dr. Kati Loeffler about the dark side of the captive panda breeding industry. 

Mei has shown signs of sickness and great discomfort each time the zoo has artificially inseminated her.

“I’m frustrated that the Smithsonian National Zoo has brainwashed the public into believing that they are giving the pandas a good life when, in fact, they have subjected them to years of misery,” said Schmitt-DeBonis. “But, more importantly, I am heartbroken that everything the advocates tried to do to reduce the suffering of Mei and Bei failed, including the petition asking the Zoo to reunite them after their premature separation. The egregious mistreatment of mother and cub adds salt to the wounds of animals who should never have been bred for captivity in the first place.”

Your Turn

Please ask Dr. Steve Monfort, the Director of the Smithsonian National Zoo, to allow Mei and Bei to see each other through a window:  monforts@si.edu, (202) 633-4442


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Animal Protection Group Files USDA Complaint Regarding Multiple Violations at Cincinnati Zoo

June 3, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

On May 31st, Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), an international animal protection group, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging that the Cincinnati Zoo is responsible for the incident in which zoo personnel shot and killed the gorilla Harambe after a child fell into his enclosure. In the complaint, SAEN alleges that the zoo violated section 3.77 of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which states that a primate enclosure must be surrounded by a physical barrier that prevents unauthorized humans from interacting with the animals.

Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure

Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure

At a press conference held outside the Cincinnati Zoo on May 31st to announce the complaint, Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director, stated, “Since a four year old child managed to enter the enclosure within a matter of minutes, these conditions were obviously not met.”

Michael Budkie announces USDA complaint at a press conference held outside the Cincinnati Zoo.

Michael Budkie announces USDA complaint at a press conference held outside the Cincinnati Zoo.

On June 2nd, the zoo announced that it is modifying the public barrier prior to reopening “Gorilla World” on June 7th. In response, Budkie stated, “The announcement essentially confirms the faulty nature of the previous barrier.It is entirely possible that if this barrier had been in place by Saturday, May 28th, Harambe might be alive today.”

At the press conference, Budkie also disclosed that the zoo violated the AWA on several other occasions. A 2014 USDA inspection found deteriorating wooden boards in colobus monkey and Przewalski’s horse enclosures, violating sections 3.80 and 3.125. In addition, two polar bears escaped from their enclosure on March 16, 2016, into the zookeeper area due to negligence — a repeat violation of section 3.125. The USDA inspection report states: “. . .had the bears gained outside access, the public would have been at great risk for injury, harm or death.” SAEN believes that, because of this track record, the USDA will likely impose the maximum penalty of $10,000 per infraction/animal on the zoo.

USDA inspection report regarding the escape of two polar bears at the Cincinnati Zoo.

USDA inspection report regarding the escape of two polar bears at the Cincinnati Zoo.

For Budkie, however, this incident is about much more than AWA violations and the killing of Harambe. Rather, it calls into question whether or not zoos should exist at all. “At the end of the day, zoos are money-making businesses masquerading as conservation groups. True conservation focuses on the preservation of natural habitats, not holding wild animals captive in small enclosures where many go insane from lack of stimulation, stress and the frustration of confinement.”

Harembe memorial

Children pay their respects to Harambe outside of the Cincinnati Zoo

On May 28th, a four year old child fell into Harambe’s enclosure after crawling through a fence leading to it. While the gorilla did not attack the boy, the zoo decided to shoot him as a safety precaution.

Your Turn

For more information, please visit Stop Animal Exploitation Now.


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Arturo: The White Bear Who is The Black Eye of Argentina

March 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

Temperatures reach a scorching 104 degrees in Western Argentina, but that doesn’t stop the city of Mendoza from holding an arctic animal captive in its zoo. And that is only one of the reasons why Arturo the polar bear is going insane.

Polar bear Arturo is depressed and shows signs of insanity

Polar bear Arturo is depressed and shows signs of insanity

The Mendoza Zoo in Western Argentina

The Mendoza Zoo in Western Argentina

For over 20 years, Arturo, who is the only polar bear in Argentina, has been confined to a small concrete pit that deprives him of the ability to do anything that comes naturally to him, including swimming in the open water, traversing the sea ice and hunting for seals. Since Pelusa, his polar bear companion, died in 2012, he has had no contact with members of his own species. His only stimulation is a shallow pool that, according to visitors, is often empty.

Arturo sits in 20" deep pool

Arturo sits in 20″ deep pool

Arturo has been robbed of everything that makes life worth living, and he lets the zoo patrons who peer into his prison cell know it by displaying signs of depression, such as swaying, rocking and pacing.

For many years, activists have advocated to transfer Arturo to a Canadian zoo where the climate is more suitable to polar bears; where the enclosure if far superior and where he’d live with members of his own species. While captivity at Canada’s Assiniboine Park Zoo would be no substitute for freedom, it would be a major improvement for “the world’s saddest animal,” as he is often described.

Assiniboine Park Zoo's  polar bear exhibit - where Arturo should be

Assiniboine Park Zoo’s new polar bear exhibit opened in 2014 (photo: Mike Deal, Winnipeg Free Press)

In response to a 2014 petition with 400,000 signatures demanding the the Mendoza Zoo relocate him to Canada, the Zoo’s director stated that Arturo must stay on the grounds that the journey could kill him. But captivity is killing him right now, which is why activists believe the transfer to this facility in Canada is well worth the risk:

Like Nosey the elephant and Lolita the orca, Arturo has captured the attention of activists worldwide and has become a global symbol of the barbarity of animal captivity. But, with the Mendoza Zoo refusing to transfer him, Arturo’s advocates are working to determine the best approach to helping him.

For the moment, #FreeArturo  and #Storm4Arturo “tweet storms” are keeping his plight in the public consciousness. In 2014, both Cher and Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, tweeted on his behalf.

Cher Tweets for Arturo the Polar Bear

Cher tweets in support of relocating Arturo to Canada

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, tweets for Arturo

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, tweets for Arturo

Your Turn

To keep apprised and participate in the effort to relocate Arturo, please “like” Free ArturoSave Polar Bear Arturo and Proyecto Ecoparque Mendoza (local group in Mendoza) on Facebook.

If you have a Twitter account, please use the #Tweet4Arturo Facebook page as a resource to tweet on his behalf.

Sign the Change.org petition.

Share this article with others to raise awareness of the plight of Arturo and all animals held captive for entertainment and profit.


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Zoo Visitor Crushes Tasmanian Devil in His Small Enclosure

October 21, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

A Tasmanian devil crawled into his enclosure and died after a visitor crushed him with a block of asphalt at the Albuquerque Zoo in New Mexico. With no surveillance cameras at the devil exhibit, law enforcement probably won’t find the killer.

photo: Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal

photo: Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal

A spokesman for the local Mayor said that “our poor Tasmanian devil was killed, intentionally, by what seems to be blunt force trauma to the head.”

Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt

Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt

Jasper, one of four devils acquired by the zoo several months ago, came from the Healesville Sanctuary, a zoo in Australia. Healesville is attempting to breed several thousand devils in captivity for eventual release because the wild population in Tasmania is being decimated by a contagious facial cancer.

Contagious facial tumor

Contagious facial tumor

In the wild, Tasmanian devils, who are nocturnal, swim across rivers, hunt, eat with other devils, climb trees, run exceptionally fast and have complex sex lives. Captivity can’t possibly meet the instinctual needs of these animals, but, at the moment, it might be their only chance at survival.

tasmanian devil screech

Devils are famous for their strong bite and blood-curdling screech

Opinion

After a three-week old tiger drowned at the London zoo in 2012, PETA called for a boycott, describing the zoo as a “prison with living exhibits.” The zoo director, David Field, defended captivity, saying “Conservation breeding programmes are the only way to ensure a future for these animals.”

If members of a species are forced to sacrifice their freedom to help to conserve the entire species, then they should at the very least be housed in sanctuaries. Zoos are inherently inhumane, and they teach children that animals are exhibits, not individuals who want to live freely.

Your Turn

The ideal way to preserve wildlife is to support the work of groups like Sea Shepherd that protect animals in their own habitats.


Filed under: Entertainment, WIldlife
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Injured Boy Escapes Jaguar Pit; Jaguars Do Not

October 13, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

Though severely injured, a three year old boy who fell into the jaguar pit at an Arkansas zoo on Friday managed to escape. The jaguars, however, weren’t as lucky.

Arkansas Zoo

Arkansas Zoo

Following is video animation of the incident, starting with the boy’s grandfather placing him on the railing from which he fell:

Just 18 days earlier, a man in India fell into the tiger exhibit at the New Delhi Zoo and died after being dragged away and attacked by the tiger shown in the photo below.

TOPSHOTS-INDIA-ANIMAL-TIGER-ZOO-ATTACK

Both of these tragic accidents could have be avoided if the big cats weren’t being held captive in the first place.

Your Turn

Jaguars live primarily in the jungles and wetlands of Central and South South America. One jaguar is thought to remain in the Southwestern United States. In the wild, they carve out and mark their territories; they hunt; and they raise their young.

jaguar-in-jungle

Zoos enclosures, such as “the pit” in Arkansas, cannot possibly meet jaguars’ instinctual needs.

jaguar pit

Zoos are cruel, exploitive and unnecessary. They teach children that kidnapping and holding others captive are acceptable behaviors. Learn more about why holding animals captive in zoos is cruel. And take action.


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