FAQs Index

How well do captive animals survive in the wild?

I just was wondering out of curiosity how well animals that have been held captive there whole life can survive in the wild? I know that in cases such as mink fur farms this is not a major concern, cause if they stay there they are guaranteed death and to never have a moment of freedom, if they are liberated they have a chance and at least are free until they do die. I am wondering about animals held captive in parks for people to "enjoy". Do you think these animals are better off in these enclosed fenced-off areas, probably safe from most predators or do you think they would be ok to survive out in the wild? I have seen several animals in this kind of situation and have always wondered what would happen if some one tried to free them and let them go into the wild as the parks I have been to are right near forests. There are some animals that I don't think would be able to live, like lamas in the GTA of Ontario, but I have often seen deer, rabbits, and several other animals that you could find running free in the forests near the parks. Where do you think these animals are better off? "Safe" in captivity or free in the wild?

It's a good question and it's one of the reasons for number 5 of our ALF guidelines, which is:

5. To analyze the ramifications of all proposed actions, and never apply generalizations when specific information is available.

Before you could properly decide you would need more data. In most cases I would expect that the animals would be content in the parks as long as they had their own kind with which to associate, and had enough room. Watching animals and knowing their body language is useful in determining their mental state.

We heard a story where an activist took just one gopher from a small zoo exhibit because the gopher was still young and it was shunned by the others (it was speculated that it was shunned because it was a much lighter color than the others). The activist watched it for a month and was dismayed. She learned the location of some gopher prairies 100 miles away, visited them, and decided they were safe from hunters and other predators. She released the gopher there. She tried to watch it, but she never saw it again, so we don't know if the story had a happy ending. But you get the idea. Releasing animals that are not being abused (mentally or physically) takes a lot of planning. The older the animal, the less likely it will enjoy a new environment.

There is one other outcome to consider, and that's the long term effect of liberating animals on the possibility of discouraging a park or other entity from ever replacing them. If a liberation accomplishes this, then maybe a lot of future animals are better for the liberation.

Another factor: How were the captive animals obtained? Through rescue or purchased from an animal trader who may have taken it from the wild? While many captive animals are better off remaining in captivity (especially, for example parrots that have bonded to people), that doesn't mean that they wouldn't have been happier left in the wild (although they probably happy they were born).

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