Bear in captivity

Do you have animal blood on your hands?

You’ve booked two weeks abroad and during that time you’re keen to get up close and personal with a stunning animal that you don’t usually see in good ol’ blighty, right?

You fill up your schedule with excursions to zoos, aquariums, monkey parks and elephant ‘sanctuaries’ and leap at the chance to have your photograph with the beautiful creatures that spend 24 hours a day trapped inside tanks and cages while ‘innocent’ people gawp at them through a thin sheet of glass.

In fact, you’ve probably travelled a good two+ hours to get to the specific destination just so you can get a selfie with some exotic creatures and are already thinking about how many ‘likes’ you’ll get on Instagram.

Bear in captivity
A bear in captivity (c) Pinterest

Your conscience is telling you it’s wrong as you watch big cats pace back and forth while cameras flash in their faces. But you don’t give it a second thought when you hand over £150 to have a photo with it, right?

I saw so many people complaining on social media when they heard that Lolita – a 47-year-old orca – had been abandoned by Seaquarium Miami when Hurricane Irma struck and wiped out the state of Florida.

Seaquarium Miami (c) Twitter

This beautiful killer whale was ripped away from her family when she was a baby, shipped to an aquarium, thrown into a tank the size of a hotel swimming pool on her own during the 70s and forced to perform tricks and stunts in front of an audience multiple times a day in return for food.

The aquarium knew that Hurricane Irma was on its way, yet they decided to shut the park and leave Lolita to face the horrific storm by herself. And bearing in mind her tank has no roof, there were fears she would drown, get electrocuted, be smashed on the head by falling debris and starve to death!

Lolita in her tiny tank
Lolita in her tiny tank (c) Twitter

Thankfully, gorgeous Lolita managed to survive the storm – although she’s probably very shook up and confused – but her water is absolutely filthy and it’s not yet known whether she’s been injured.

Seaqaurium are yet to release a statement on Lolita’s condition and the only reason we know she’s still alive is because someone used their drone to hover above her tank. The kind man was later arrested!

There is a petition to have Lolita released to an offshore rehabilitation centre, where she’ll be trained to catch fish, follow boats and survive in the ocean until she’s ready to be returned to her natural habitat.

A pod of orcas in the wild (c) Google
A pod of orcas in the wild (c) Google

Considering she’s been in captivity for almost 50 years, there’s a high chance Lolita will never be ready to return to her family – who scientist have been following and have confirmed are still alive – and, if that’s the case, she’ll continue to be cared for by humans but she’ll have miles of safe ocean to swim and dive in. You can sign the petition here: it only takes two seconds and could save her life!

Unfortunately Lolita isn’t the only animal suffering from this kind of abuse.

Baby tiger being used for photographs at a zoo (c) PETA
Baby tiger being used for photographs at a zoo (c) PETA

Those baby tigers in zoos that you can have a picture with have actually been ripped away from their mothers just days after they were born, subjected to stress and often physically abused – just so YOU can have a memento. And then when they’re too big and old to lie in your arms, they’re heavily sedated and usually forced to have a chunky, heavy, chain slung around their necks so they can’t attack the public.

I think we’re forgetting that these are WILD animals – they’re highly intelligent – and it’s in their instincts to attack if they feel threatened, concerned someone is taking their food or are being manipulated.

A wild crocodile in Cape Tribulation (c) Amy Maria Roberts

I also see so many people on social media posting pictures of them riding camels and elephants while on holiday. Please DON’T do this!

You may find it an enjoyable experience and have convinced yourself that these animals are treated well by their handlers but these poor creatures spend the majority of their lives carrying people – some even 17 stone – up the same dusty track.

An elephant's dislocated joints after years of human trips (c) Trip Advisor
An elephant’s dislocated joints after years of human trips (c) Trip Advisor

Not only is this bad for their mental health but carrying humans puts unnecessarily strain on their joints – meaning a lot of them are in a lot of pain with their hips and knees and eventually their bones will crumble and buckle from the pressure.

The only way we can put a stop to this kind of abuse is by not going to these kind of attractions because no customers = no business. No business = no animals held in captivity = less premature deaths.

A cheeky wild kanga having a stretch
A cheeky kanga having a stretch (c) Amy Maria Roberts

While I strongly believe that every single animal should be in its natural habitat, I appreciate that a lot of them – such as the panda – would have gone extinct by now if it wasn’t for humans stepping in.

However, there’s a fine line between an animal being held for public entertainment ie. in a zoo or aquarium and animals being cared for in approved sanctuaries.

A red kangaroo at a sanctuary in Cairns, Australia
A red kangaroo at a sanctuary in Cairns, Australia (c) Amy Maria Roberts

I was lucky enough to swim with a turtle when I was in Australia back in 2015. I was snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and he floated past munching on a dead jelly fish. I didn’t interact with him or get too close but it was so beautiful to see how he moved in his natural habitat.

I also went whale watching while I was out there and it was so lovely to see a mother and her baby jumping about 10 metres in front of out boat. I can’t express enough how refreshing it is to see how animals behave – ie. breaching – naturally without being forced to on command. Obviously, when you agree to do things like whale watching there’s a high chance you won’t see a whale but that’s perfectly fine with me, it’s nature after all!

A whale breaching during whale watching
A gorgeous orca breaching in Sydney (c) Amy Maria Roberts

If this post isn’t enough to persuade you to not go to zoos and aquariums anymore, then I’m asking you to do one thing for me: Next time you do pay to visit those kind of establishment, look at the animals behind the glass in the eye because I promise you’ll be see their soul and realise they all have personalities, they all have feelings and they ALL deserve to live how nature intended – free and happy.


A wild dingo on Frazer Island, Australia
A wild dingo on Frazer Island, Australia (c) Amy Maria Roberts

This post wasn’t meant to slam or make you feel guilty for visiting zoos/aquariums – I’ve done it before myself – because you’re all animal lovers otherwise you wouldn’t have paid to see these creatures. But I’m asking you, from the bottom of my heart, to prove how much you respect animals by not attending these establishments – who cover up their cruel actions – anymore. Love them enough to help set them free!

Peace x

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