Prozac Will Not Cure the Mental Anguish of Captive Animals
It’s hard not to love the happy-go-lucky penguin. They can be so much like us; they give their desired lifetime mate the most precious pebble that they can find. In a Japanese zoo, a penguin recently showed their favorite zookeeper serious happy feet love by following their every step.
If you watched that video, then you would think penguins have it made in captivity. Yet, if that were the case, then why would the Humboldt penguins, in a British sanctuary, need prozac?
Instead of tagging human first world problems and solutions to the animal world, conservationists should learn natural animal problems and solutions. As history shows, the next main animal attraction, at a zoo, sanctuary or park, can easily become a fatal attraction.
No Place Like Home for Humboldt Penguins
While most of us picture penguins thriving in bone freezing weather, that’s not the natural habitat for the South American Humboldt penguins. Humboldt penguins thrive in a diversity of climates, in their native Chile and Peru. Britain’s stagnant weather is nowhere near home.
As Lyndsey Crawford, the Sea Life Centre curator, told The Guardian: ”‘What they don’t get, though, is weeks of almost daily downpours and high winds. After the first week out, birds were just a bit subdued, but after over a month now, they are thoroughly fed-up and miserable.’”
The poor penguins also had to deal with the joys of captivity and close human contact when an intruder chased the Humboldt penguins around in their enclosure. As The Guardian reports, Humboldt penguins are extremely sensitive to their environment and thrive on routine; the break-in to their enclosure shook them up, so it took some time for them to produce eggs again.
It’s not just that the Sanctuary is concerned with the mental and emotional welfare of the penguins either. Sad, scared and miserable penguins just don’t breed. And we all learned how important breeding is to institutions, like zoos, sanctuaries and animal parks, through the death of Marius the Giraffe and the destroying of six lions. Animals that cannot breed are bad for business.
The penguins are taking Prozac as an “upper” to help get them through the weather rough patch. As Crawford told The Guardian, she hopes the Prozac would do the temporary trick until some ongoing sunshine can give “the penguins the tonic [that] they really need.”
Arturo the Depressed Polar Bear
As The Journal reports, Arturo, a 29-year-old polar bear, also has weather related blues. Arturo was already reported to be “in mourning” since 2012 after the death of his enclosure companion. Yet Arturo has his own health to worry about now. The polar bear is stuck in the middle of the Argentinian desert where “he is also exhausted from the heat.”
Many Argentinians are outraged at the thought of losing a polar to heat exhaustion because it’s already happened. According to The Journal, Argentinians still can’t forget the Christmas passing of Winner, a 16-year-old polar bear, when “temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius.”
While there were possible plans of relocating Arturo to Canada, they were short-lived. Fox News Latino reports that zoo experts cite Arturo’s advanced age and “fragile” health as the main obstacles in realizing the move.
Environmentalists disagree. They claim that a more thorough investigation was needed, and Canada would’ve been a better climatic fit. According to The Journal, Canada is where “60 percent of the world’s 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears” reside.
Gus Was Another Depressed Polar Bear
While not a desert, New York’s Central Park Zoo seems like an unlikely home for a polar bear. Gus was a 27-year-old polar bear who was euthanized in 2013.
As NY Mag explains, Gus was the polar bear with a “$25,000 therapist.” He was reported to have many emotional problems — “he had been bored and restless, neurotic and obsessive, and so the zoo had brought in a specialist.”
All of this anthropomorphizing aside, like the Arctic, the emotional lives of animals are still largely unknown. It’s a shame that after many decades of captivity, we still haven’t given them enriching and stimulating environments that match their natural world and their natural essence. Things like Prozac and a $25,000 therapist don’t even come close.
Photo Credit: Chris Nystrom