Haphazard Breeding in European Zoos is Dangerous

Farasi, the baby hippopotamus born at the Basel Zoo in Switzerland has become famous since his birth in November 2008. His birth also stirred up controversy when the public learned the Basel Zoo wasn’t big enough to house Farasi and his father and policy dictated that the hippo be “destroyed” if another zoo couldn’t adopt him. The harsh reality of zoo policies collided with the Swiss people’s love of animals.

An article in the Wall Street Journal said this about the haphazard breeding methods in European zoos. “American zoos believe in birth control or sexual abstinence for their animal populations. But Europe’s 4,000 zoos take a more continental approach to reproductive rights: Animals should be free to do what comes naturally. The result is a surplus of offspring. And if zookeepers can’t find a home for the babies, zoos typically kill them.”

The shocking reality of this policy moved the Swiss people to take action to save the baby hippo. And even though a new home hasn’t been found yet, it appears little Farasi will be safe.

This cavalier method of breeding has lead to a surplus of 7,500 zoo animals at point in a year according to the Captive Animal Protection Society (CAPS). And it seems to be in direct conflict with the policies set-up by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), where the Basel Zoo is a member.

In 1988 zoos all across Europe joined forces to establish a “multinational” zoo organization. Their mission statement says they were formed to, “Promote cooperation for furthering regional collection planning and wildlife conservation, particularly through internationally coordinated breeding programs…”

Their guidelines further state, “Together with the Species Committee, recommendations are made each year on which animals should breed or not breed, which individual animals should go from one zoo to another, and so on.”

If this is the case, what happened in Switzerland? Did the Basel Zoo get the O.K. from EAZA to breed the two hippos? It certainly wasn’t an accident because Helvetia, who is Farasi’s mother, has given birth to six other hippos with the same mate.

The CAPS organization says that zoos breed many animals just to draw attention and bring in more visitors. After all, an adorable new baby sells a lot of tickets.

And even worse they accuse zoos of breeding so they can sell the animals for a profit to research labs or animal dealers.

Whatever are the real motives behind haphazard breeding it should be stopped; innocent animals are dying because of it. Birth control methods are available and ought to be used.

Let’s get zoos back to their original objective of places that protect wild animals and inspire humans to appreciate and respect nature? Let’s make zoos the safe haven they supposed to be.

18 comments

MeowFoul B.
MeowFoul B9 years ago

Zoos should not even excist.

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Annie Flanders
annie Flanders10 years ago

just read an article about farasi. apparently he will NOT be killed. that is good.

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Arundhati M.
Past Member 10 years ago

it is a tragic thing to know that organsations that have been allowed to function to save these animals from killers are the ones killing them in a cold blooded way...there is no harm in using using birth controll for animals if it is helping them to at least survive...if this keeps going on soon there won't be any use of us going to zoos as there won't be any animals there..the zoo authorities would have already killed them...

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Justine L.
Justine L10 years ago

Wow. It's disgusting to think that a zoo would be willing to jeprodize the health, safety, and ultimately, lives, of its animals just to sell tickets.

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Denise Tankha
Vijay Tankha10 years ago

Hippos do n ot breed so rapidly in captivity, so I cannot understand where careless breeding comes into the picture. Surely there are many zoos whhich would live to have a hippo, why talk about destroying the animal? Can there possible be some ulterior motive afoot?

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Ellen Granovetter
Ellen Granovetter10 years ago

It is irresponsible not to neuter animals when their offspring may not find a home and be killed as a result.

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Pamela H.
Pamela H10 years ago

Yes animals (and humans) naturally have sex, but there is nothing natural about a zoo. Breeding or not breeding in zoos is UNnatural. It is humans that overpopulate the planet when we are supposed to have the intelligence to control the situation, yet we do not. I agree that all breeding in zoos should be stopped, in fact I would go further and say that all zoos should be only for rescue and care for animals at risk, not to exploit them.

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Amanda R.
Amanda R10 years ago

I only have one word: Zoos. [spoken in a disdainful tone]

The word "birth control" spoken in any terms makes me want to puke for some reason, but that's just me.

But here's the thing: animals NATURALLY have sex, whereas humans like to do everything as unnaturally as possible. We say it's unethical to legislate where and when adult human beings can have sex or reproduce, but we think it's ok to do it to animals who we believe run on "instinct" (including an innate instinct to mate) because we "own" them. Huh?

...But I really do hate zoos.

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PJ W.
PJ W10 years ago

"Animals should be free to do what comes naturally."
Are you kidding me? There is nothing natural or free about a zoo and this argument is absolutely ludicrous. To allow a birth just to destroy is one of the cruelest things I have ever heard.

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Vivianne Mosca-Clark

the zoos could be a part of returning animals to their environment. Better then killing them. Using zoos to teach people about them is good. People are to removed from nature. This is one way to help return to nature and see what living life forces are like. At least until people 'get it'. Nature is foreign to most people, they live in houses,cars,and buildings. So zoos let them see there is something else outside of their sheltered existence.

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