Death at London Zoo

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of the Sumatran tiger cub at London Zoo. The cub, the first born at the Zoo for 17 years, had been much-vaunted as a significant landmark for conservation – a position that Born Free profoundly disputed.

The circumstances of the cub’s death are a little unclear at the moment, but it appears that the cub may have drowned. The premature death of any animal is a sad event, and in this case I feel for the tiger keepers at the Zoo and, of course, for the cub’s mother.

Accidents happen in the wild and in captivity, and we should resist the temptation to use this tragedy to score points against London Zoo.

Nevertheless, it just goes to show how the fortunes of programmes to maintain populations of threatened animals in captivity can change in a heartbeat. Pinning our hopes on relatively tiny populations of captive animals while the wild continues to take a hammering is just not conservation.

The massive financial, human and emotional investment made by zoos in individual animals (recall the £5 million Gorilla Kingdom at London Zoo, the exhaustive breeding attempts and then the death of the first and only gorilla ever born at the zoo, killed in a fracas with the male) are high risk strategies.

Maybe this latest tragedy is the signal for a re-evaluation of strategy. Seriously, maybe what we need is to call time on these flagship captive programmes and redirect our time, effort and money to keeping wildlife in the wild, where it belongs.

15 Responses to “Death at London Zoo”

  1. Keith Oswin Says:

    I totally agree that there is no place for zoos as we know them in the world today.

    Breeding programmes should take place in enclosures within national parks so that the animals are in as close to their natural environment as possible.

    To see these beautiful creatures in enclosures (no matter how clever the architects are to try and create the ‘wild’) is just wrong on so many levels.

  2. Jane Eakhurst Says:

    I am a bit of a fence sitter on this one.
    I was physically upset when I heard the news this morning. Yes, it’s heartbreaking that the cub should drown after such an exhaustive effort by all involved at London Zoo, and many people there will be distraught that their attempts have failed, with such devastating consequences. I imagine there will be some tough questions being asked also.
    Of course the wild is where cubs should be born and raised, but in this day and age that endangered animals are becoming less in numbers each year, whether through poaching or lack of habitat, etc, can we really afford to take sides and say that one is better than the other?

  3. sonya wests Says:

    I was at the Zoo about 3 weeks ago,taking footage for a new song released for Xmas time. I didn’t see the Tiger and heard 1 week later a Cub was born. I was overjoyed and must admit would have gone back to see it.I am one of your people who agree with what you say.Maybe it wasn’t destined to have too spend All of its precious life in Captivity.Bless.

  4. Amanda Gee Says:

    I was very sad to hear this terrible news. I have to agree that there may be a couple of zoos in this country who do very actively encourage conservation but the majority of them are in it for very different and wrong reasons. Certainly most if not all big cats don’t seem to do well in any zoo if you ask me so I would much rather there were no big cats (amongst other animals) in zoos.

  5. Joanne price Says:

    Devastated, but the cub shouldn’t be bought up in captivity, don’t think breeding shouldn’t be done in zoo, safari parks maybe where they have room, very sad

  6. Gill Gilbey Says:

    Most people seem to have missed the point! HOW did it drown!!!

  7. Nina Cole Says:

    I would question if there has ever really been a place for zoos, where animals are kept completely out of context & outside of their natural surroundings.

    It is stated that habitats inside of zoos are now keen to provide enriched habitats by mimicking their natural life in the wild, but hiding food in cardboard boxes or filling tree bark with honey is no substitute for their natural habitat and living free without the confines of steel bars or electric fences.

    We should be teaching our children how animals should be living and not as a place of entertainment.

  8. Bethany Says:

    A beautiful soul that the world has lost. I am against animals in circuses but I am too on the fence about zoos. I think they should be HIGHLY monitored so animal cruelty does not take place but I remember as a child going to the zoo and it is what spurred my love for animals, I believe. I do not permit going to zoos but if I ever do I always take note of their behaviour, environment, food, how they are cared for ect.

  9. helen ess Says:

    firstly, thanks for the link will x

    i agree with gill, how was it allowed into such a situation where it was in the position where it might drown ?

    i havent visited a zoo since i was taken as a child, quite some time ago, no disrespect to london zoo but it does show a certain amount of neglect considering they were monitoring cameras following the birth ?

    i find the whole incident very upsetting and would like to know what relevant authorities intend to do to prevent this ever happening again

  10. Nikki Sherwood Says:

    It is devastating to have lost a cub in these circumstances and I agree that in this day and age we have to look at all options available when trying to save a species whether that be in in-situ or ex-situ. However, I would argue that the vast amount of money spent by London Zoo in building the new tiger enclosure (nearly £4m) could have been better spent purchasing pristine rainforest in Sumatra thereby protecting their habitat and potentially saving many more tigers than will ever be born in captivity at London zoo.

  11. maryann murphy Says:

    i would like to know why there was not a camera where the pool was,it is such a tragic thing,wild life parks maybe,but zoo’s are no place for wild animals.

  12. Marilyn Shipley Says:

    I don’t think anyone has missed the point BUT the idea that a species will be conserved if it is born in captivity is just misguided. All wild animals should be wild. They should remain where they are in the wild. Once any wild animal has been caged it loses self-reliance. Most caged wild animals can never be reintroduced to the wild because they will be eaten alive (literally). I have always felt, even as a small child, that zoos were an abomination. We don’t need them. It’s so sad that some people just cannot understand that to cage a wild animal is to kill it. Not conserve. This is heartbreaking news but it’s time we human beings just stopped interfering with wild life altogether.

  13. louise Abbott Says:

    I agree with Gill….. what were they thinking leaving the cub in an enclosure with water in it, did they not realise they were dealing with a baby!!! Babies of any kind and water do not go hand in hand. It is just common sense and whoever is responsible for that decision should be sacked as they obviously have no common sense and will make the same mistake or similar again. Better still leave animals to breed in the wild and put the time effort and money into conservation and safari or national parks with enclosures where they have room to roam and act more natural, then they may be able to release them into the wild. London Zoo although better than most still thought of the cub as a money spinner!!!!! When is the human race going to learn >

  14. bev hughes Says:

    Animals belong in the wild NOT ANIMAL PRISONS

  15. Karin Scott Says:

    I worry that the current generation will only want and expect to see animals in zoos. I see so much lethargy in children today. They no longer read encyclopedias as we did as kids. They don’t collect wildlife cards or put stickers in sticker books. They are getting fatter and lazier and when they reach adulthood they will, doubtless, drive themselves around the concrete paths of the zoo in their mobility scooters. When we were children/teens we joined anti-vivisection groups and the WWF. We went on rallies and became outraged over the seal clubbing (which is still going on in Namibia and all the usual places).
    I see the saddening statistics posted on poaching numbers and worry that zoos are all there will be. I’m glad I lived when I did and glad I won’t see the end result of mankind’s greed. Sadly, my children and grandchildren will.