Karta, a Sumatran orangutan kept in captivity at Adelaide Zoo, has died.
Confined to zoos since her birth at the San Diego Zoo in the US 34 years ago, Karta died after the stillbirth of her seventh baby. All of her babies previously born at Adelaide Zoo also died soon after delivery, and she was evidently torn away from her one surviving offspring when she was transferred to Australia.
Karta was too sick to breed and was, accordingly, on contraceptives, which failed to work. The pregnancy was allowed to continue, despite the clear danger of complications, which ultimately took her life.
Zoo breeding programmes give the public a false sense that something meaningful is being done to save animals, when in reality, they serve no conservation purpose, because animals born in zoos are rarely, if ever, returned to their natural habitats.
The physical and mental stress of constant captivity and the consequent loss of freedom – including when and what they can eat and what they can do – often leads these animals to display abnormal, neurotic, and even self-destructive behaviour, such as self-mutilation.
Today’s advanced technology, virtual field trips, IMAX movies, and wildlife documentaries provide far better ways to teach children about the wonders of the animal kingdom than visits to zoos to see depressed animals held in captivity do.
We urge everyone who genuinely cares about orangutans and all other animals serving life sentences in zoos to recognise these institutions for what they are: prisons with living exhibits.