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FROSTY’S RAMBLINGS Wild about wild animals’ prisons  

PETER FROST sticks his trunk, his fins and his paws into the dirty business of keeping wild animals in captivity

AMAZINGLY, it was only a little more than a year ago that having wild animals like lions, tigers, elephants and sealions became illegal in Britain. 

At the moment a similar law is being introduced to make the keeping of those same animals as pets in private homes also illegal.

At present there are over 50 elephants being kept in captivity in Britain. As they die it will be illegal to have any more unless they have been bred in captivity in Britain.

It is reckoned that in Britain today about a dozen lions, 14 tigers and 50 leopards are being kept by licensed private owners. 

Altogether there are a total of 150 big cats of all species licensed to be kept privately as pets in Britain. Examples include four tigers in Lincolnshire, three cheetahs in Cumbria and six clouded leopards in Cornwall. 

This contrasts with the United States where only a very few states have laws making keeping any kind of wild animal illegal. 

There are around 5,000 captive tigers in the US, and that is many more than the 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild worldwide. 

A baby tiger cub features high on the birthday gift list of many a spoiled, but really rich brat.

ANNE is an arthritic circus elephant over 60 years old. Earlier this year she became the star of BBC1’s morning TV show Animal Park filmed at Longleat Safari and Adventure Park.

Ten years ago she was rescued from a life of abuse touring Britain with Bobby Roberts Super Circus. 

Circus owner Bobby Roberts was found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to the Asian elephant Anne. 

He was also convicted of failing to prevent an employee, Nicolai Nitu — who had since fled to his native Romania — from repeatedly beating the animal, often with a pitchfork. 

Roberts also failed to ensure the elephant’s needs were met by not giving her medication for her arthritis. 

Northampton Crown Court was shown footage filmed secretly by animal welfare group Animal Defenders International of the elephant being kicked and struck with a pitchfork several times by Nitu at the circus’s winter quarters last year. 

The footage also showed Anne constantly chained by one front foot and one hind leg in a barn. 

Roberts gave instructions for Anne to be chained and took no action to prevent the beatings she received. He also failed to provide any training or supervision for the staff member responsible for her. His elephant keeper Nicolai Nitu has now returned to Romania.

Now the charity that rescued Anne from the circus wants her moved from Longleat to a less public elephant sanctuary and one where she might be able to be with other elephants. 

Online petitions have collected 150,000 plus signatures supporting such a move.

Longleat, which built a special home for Anne and has pledged not to exhibit her or use her for any marketing, say they don’t think Anne should be moved as the journey is likely to be very stressful for her due to her age, physical and mental condition. It also believes that introducing to other elephants could lead to bullying.

The row goes on with Anne in the middle. Sadly, it is far to big an argument to find adequate room for her.

MOST zoos or animal safari parks and similar places will defend the keeping of captive wild animals for conservation reasons. 

Or to raise the animals in captivity to be returned to the wild. In fact hardly any of these captive-bred animals are ever let go to increase wild populations.

I’ve quoted the position of polar bears before. There are over 120 institutions trying to breed a captive polar bear cub. 

They all know that exhibiting such a loveably cuddly animal is a licence to print money.

In fact not one captive-bred polar bear has ever been returned to the wild. In fact, most die very young.   

IT isn’t just land animals. The campaigning group Freedom for Animals has identified 10 zoos and safari parks in the UK that hold sealions captive and advertise circus-like shows with these animals.

Britain hasn’t had any captive whales or dolphins for over 25 years. But Britain has a long history of keeping them in captivity. 

There are records of whales and dolphins in British aquariums going back nearly 150 years. 

We do, however have many aquariums that have shows featuring threatened fish, like sharks, rays and skate.

In 1874 porpoises could be seen at the Brighton Aquarium. In 1877 a beluga whale was shipped from Canada “on a bed of seaweed.” It was displayed at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster. The poor animal survived for only a few days.

Around the world many whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are still kept in captivity and displayed in shows.

Seven countries currently keep a total of 42 orcas or killer whales in captivity. Half are in the US, the rest in Japan (8), Spain (5), France (4), Canada (2) and one each in the Netherlands and Argentina.

Some 161 Beluga whales are kept and shown in 14 countries. The top five are: Canada (42), US (31), Russia (28), China (24) and Japan (20).

Sadly there are well over 2,000 dolphins in captivity in various aquariums, zoos, entertainment and theme parks, and even posh expensive hotels in nearly 60 countries. 

Here in Britain, our main period for dolphin shows started in the 1960s with Flamingoland in Yorkshire. 

In 1963 this was the first park in modern times to display dolphins. It was also the last to finally close its doors to these animals in 1993. 

Since then there have been no whale or dolphin shows in Britain although a few have been threatened. 

Many people believe that it’s illegal to keep whales or dolphins in tanks in Britain, but there is actually no legal ban in place.

Meanwhile many British holidaymakers will see whale and dolphin shows in many popular overseas holiday destinations from Florida to Benidorm.

Whether in circuses, zoos, safari parks or aquariums, thousands of animals — land, sea and air — are kept in uncomfortable crowded prisons just so that you and I and our children and grandchildren can stare at them, occasionally stroke them and laugh at them and their curious antics.

As so often poet William Blake — who wrote the great socialist alternative national anthem, Jerusalem — puts it better than I can. 

He wrote: “A Robin Redbreast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage.”

That was at a time the poet was wandering about the London streets wearing a red bonnet. For him his hat was a symbol of his radical politics. He was a dissenter, a supporter of the French Revolution, and firmly against the monarchy.  

Seems like someone who should be writing for the Morning Star every Friday.


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