Do Wild Animals Only Belong In the Wild?

By Raven Simons 3/21/2007

If you ask the average person about animals in captivity these days you frequently hear them say, “Wild animals belong in the wild.” This statement is made with absolute faith that it is scientific fact. “Animals just can’t be happy in captivity”, the same person might also say followed up with “It’s inhumane!” The question is do animals only belong in the wild? Is it scientifically proven that animals are happier in the wild than in captivity? Let’s find out.

According to recent news articles and the publishing of trends in small and big business, the pet industry is booming. In the USA and abroad people are pampering their pets at an ever increasing rate and it is not just Fido the dog and Fluffy the cat. Exotic pets are on the rise. More people are becoming interested in small exotic pets like snakes, lizards, ferrets, and sugar gliders. With a bigger human population competing for space, many people just don’t have the room for the traditional loyal pooch.

Small exotics are especially suited to the smaller spaces of condominiums and apartments. There are also fewer prohibitions on them than on cats and dogs. A friendly reptile, like a bearded lizard, also gives social interaction while only needing a small assigned space. Do exotic (often called “wild”) pets need special consideration? All animals require proper research about their needs and a commitment to take care of these needs for the entire length of their lives.

What about lions, tigers and bears, oh my? Surely these animals belong in the wild and only in the wild. Currently the captive population of Siberian tigers is greater than the tigers left in their wild habitat. Why is this so? The answer is simple and written about in the news everyday: human competition.

If people can’t have a house with a yard because they are competing with other humans for space and must settle for an apartment, where does this leave the animals? It is a known fact that human population is exploding and along with that all of the resources needed to fuel that explosion. There is only so much room on our Starship Earth. We haven’t found a way to colonize the other galaxies yet and there are many people who feel that it is against God’s Will to limit human reproduction. Where does this leave room for our animal brothers and sisters?

I need to also say that it is always spoken about in the media that the majority of the human population is living in poverty. Much of the poverty happens in countries that house great diversities of species. The problem is that governments and individuals make livings from exploiting and destroying animals species and the places they live. If your family was starving and you could poach and sell an endangered tiger for many years of living wages, would you kill a tiger?

Animals are losing their lives and living space at unprecedented rates, leaving many to observe that humans are causing one of the “great extinctions”. People with a religious type of belief system who feel that humans and animals should not co-exist are helping this event along. “Who are these desperados?” one might ask? They are a self-labeled vigilante group called “The Animal Rights Activists” or “ARA.” ARA members have many groups and organizations that resemble churches.

ARAs’ agenda is to end animal “slavery” also known as the human/animal bond. They show every sign of a cult or religion, including their own slavery to “beliefs” and suspension of rational thought. They use every ploy of political manipulation, especially popular media, to get their message across. They gather more converts than a faith ministry’s tent revivals. Talk about taking up real estate! Their ultimate agenda is to remove all animals from interaction with humans by whatever means.

Back to our question about if lions, tigers, and bears belong only in the wild one needs to consider actual animal life in captivity. Human animals seem to have a learning curve. It used to be acceptable to beat one’s wife as long as it was with an implement that did not exceed a couple of inches in diameter. Boy howdy, times have changed from those old time mind-sets. The same concepts apply to the human/animal bond.

Humans used to think that the best technique to “subdue a wild animal” was to overpower it by whatever means. Humans have also mistakenly abused/abandoned/neglected their animal friends no differently than they have their own children. Biblical laws have not deterred some humans from doing ill deeds. Evil seems to be a universal commodity. Humans also have the ability to learn from their own mistakes, especially certain humans. You might say that humans are adaptable.

If the human animal is adaptable are the so-called “wild” animals adaptable, too? This might take some rational thinking. If you are a biologist that specializes in wild animals, you will know that animals like a routine and to know and depend on their territory. Their satisfactory lives depend on consistency with a certain amount of variety, usually provided by either the hunt, evasive action, or mating behavior. If the species is group specific you will also have group dynamics. We are in the infancy of science when talking about the complicated relationships between species.

Human animals now know that it is important to meet the needs of a species to allow it to thrive and be happy. Captive animals live longer than their “wild” relatives due in part to their human animals’ willingness to learn how to meet their needs. Zoological parks are, for the most part in the USA, no longer animals “prisons.” Some zoos currently house wildlife breeding arcs that pamper their charges with every amenity. Private owners and conservation breeders provide valuable real estate and knowledge of valued animal husbandry as well. With Starship Earth’s prime real estate diminishing, why would anyone want to hurt any species' chance at survival?

It seems to come down to religious belief, attention, and money. ARAs’ top officials actually line their pockets at the vulnerable animal loving population of humans. Money and attention are powerful motivators. True animal propagation, advocacy, and rescue are small potatoes. Only deep pockets can afford to paint naked super models in day-glow animal prints and pretend to die on the sidewalk. Does this have any relationship to saving tigers in the wild? Does it help tigers survive anywhere?

Tent space, charismatic conversions, money, sex, drugs, and rock and roll are really what motivate animal activists. They want your money. They want you to pay attention to them. They adore your adoration. They like to “paint” themselves as the next Aslan, or Jesus. They want space to set up their own houses supported by the land that used to belong to tigers. Yet, the only way that they resemble Jesus is by their charismatic leadership and abilities to gain a faithful following. Does this sound like a religion? ARA doesn’t teach about loving your neighbor. They want to terrorize the neighbors who don’t fall in line with their agenda. They claim to do all of this to liberate animals from the human/animal bond.

While animal rights extremists collect money and encourage young people in terrorist tactics they want to distract everyone by their cries of “animal slavery” and use good looking supermodels and celebrities to distract everyone from the reality that tigers need a home with a good keeper to maintain his/her genes for genetic health. He (Mr. Tiger) knows that there must be a diverse population to keep his species alive. Tigers are too busy surviving to teach people how to make firebombs or make slick publications aimed at children like PETA’s “Your Mommy Kills Animals.”

Have there been scientific studies done that demonstrate that wild animals belong only in the wild? I couldn’t find any serious studies when I looked. True science and pseudoscience are totally different beasts. Scientifically based studies test a hypothesis and do their best to test this hypothesis using scenarios that avoid bias. Pseudoscience begins with a bias and often uses figures to statistically manipulate their “findings”. They also often mix in out of context facts and quotes. If one looks deeper at the actual qualifications of the researchers and experts that they use, you can often find pompous claims with a biased and sometimes misrepresented title or degree. Any person with a PHD can claim to be a doctor, but what are they a doctor of? Exotic Animal Specialist is a grand title, but do they have a degree in zoology, biology, have hands on exotic animal husbandry experience, or research wild animals in the field? The supposed specialist might just be a really good a public relations person and have a degree in business.

Another problem with any potentially scientific study is the definition of words. You often hear people saying that animals are happier in the wild. Considering that the word “happy” describes a subjective emotional state, how does one determine if any animal is happy? So far human beings do not have verbal dialogue with other animal species, wild or domestic. How does one scientifically study something that is so subjective and elusive? Science is supposed to be based on facts not subjective interpretation.

When considering where animals live and who gets to survive, this brings other questions. What is important? Saving a species or not? What species are the most important? Who gets the real estate when space is at a premium? Who’s going to be paying for all of this? How? What does “survive” mean? Who gets to determine this?
What are their qualifications? Do they have a vested interest or stand to gain financially? What happens if the determining party screws up? Do we just say, “Sorry grandchildren, tigers went extinct and that is just the way of evolution, survival of the fittest and all that.” This list of questions could go on and on.

I guess in wrapping up I have to ask, “Do you believe in a natural and/or God given order?” “Is there some overall plan that tells us what to do?” “If there is a plan, are humans part of this plan or exempt from it?” “Are human beings the stewards of Starship Earth or the ultimate users?” ‘Are other animal species valuable and worthy of survival in the face of ever increasing pressure of human competition?”

Underlying beliefs and assumptions effect how human beings behave. Critical examination of the information presented, including this article, is important if you care enough to be reading it. If you love animals, enjoy the human/animal bond, and want to see that species survive for the enjoyment of our grandchildren, health of the planet, or because we can show God that we won’t trash Heaven, then it is important to question the battle cry of the animal rights extremists, “Wild animals belong only in the wild.”

Raven Simons has worked on animal welfare issues for over 20 years, including a 2 year appointment by the County Commissioner to her local Humane Education Advisory Board. She owns exotic pets and can be reached at

Copyright 2007 © Raven Simons & REXANO

Photo Copyright 2007 © Zuzana Kukol & REXANO