Victims of the Wildlife Trade Living in Solitary Confinement
Aaron Gekoski, an award-winning wildlife environmental photojournalist, published haunting images of Bau Noi in 2018.
He has spent years documenting animals in captivity and is the founder and lead investigator at Raise the Red Flag, a global campaign to end cruelty in the Wildlife Tourism industry.
Bau Noi, is a female gorilla, she has lived at Pata Zoo which is located on the top floors of a shopping mall in Bangkok since 1988.
Human evolutionary studies have indicated that humans and gorillas share ninety-eight percent identical genetic similarities.
The gorilla genome is particularly important for our understanding of human evolution, because it tells us about the crucial time when we were diverging from our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees.
A team of scientists have concluded that gorillas have hierarchical societies similar to those of humans. Gorillas spend most of their time in dense forests, travel great distances to a new home locations on a daily basis.
Dr Robin Morrison, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, gained intimate views of gorilla and their social connections during a five year study in the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.
She confirmed that there were family units nested inside larger social units in patterns strikingly similar to modern human societies. Individual gorillas spent time not only with their immediate families but also with an average of thirteen extended family members. Furthermore that each gorilla interacted with thirty-nine other gorillas to whom they were not related.
During the last few years the physical environment of primates in captivity has become a subject of considerable interest. Gorillas seem to be extremely sensitive to environmental conditions.
Zoos cannot provide the amount of space gorillas have in the wild, gorillas roam for large distances. Zoos do not provide natural habitats and this is particularly true of the Paka Zoo in Bangkok.
The well-being of gorillas is dependent on their environment, Bau Noi lives in unnatural surroundings on her own this could mean that she might have developed physical health problems or anxiety, depression and even psychosis.
Bau Noi was captured from the wild, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture in 2011 concluded that solitary confinement for humans beyond fifteen days constituted cruel and inhumane punishment.
If scientific research has revealed the breadth of human genetic, emotional and cognitive kinship with gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans we must conclude that the lack of contact, the sensory deprivation must had have severe impacts on Bau Noi’s well-being during her solitary confinement in Paka Zoo.
Primatologists and conservations who have devoted their lives to studying the great apes in order to protect their rapidly vanishing populations in the wild have expressed the opinion that apes should not be confined to zoos and that there is no good evidence that captive apes are having any positive effect on their wild relatives.
Over the past few years public awareness of the sentient and sensitive nature of high-level mammals, like gorillas, chimps, elephants, orcas and dolphins has led to the demise of Ringling Brothers, the removal of orcas and dolphins from public exhibition, laws preventing the use of bull hooks to control elephants and the freeing of Kaavan, the elephant from the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad.
Animal rights activists have asked Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to remove Bua Noi from the zoo and for the closure of the Pata Zoo.
Marc Bekoff a behavioural ecologist and professor at the University of Colorado argues that an animal’s life in captivity is a shadow of their experience in the wild.
PETA’s investigation shows that the animals at the zoo are locked in dark, barren concrete cages and that they are offered no enrichment and little mental stimulation or physical exercise. PETA has offered to transfer all the animals to a sanctuary
Free the Wild is an international charity they endeavour to stop the suffering of wild animals in captivity and ultimately find a way to release them into sanctuaries or better equipped zoos. Their current mission is to free all the primates at Pata Zoo.
The EMS Foundation is currently completing two investigations into the legal wildlife trade as part of the a series called the Extinction Business. Three reports have already been published illustrating how zoos and private individuals around the world are supplied legally with wildlife such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, primates and giraffes.
These wild animals are kept as pets or as part of displays are suffering and living in misery, many are physically and psychologically damaged. We believe, that it is time to reconsider keeping wild animals in captivity, this is an outdated practise of a less enlightened era.
Image Credit: Aaron Gekoski at Pata Zoo, Bangkok
Image Credit: Dr Robin Morrison, Nouabale Ndoki National Park
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