In the light of various interviews and documentaries about the validity of zoos, I thought it an opportune time to put a penny in the pouch and hopefully help you to make a heartfelt and head led decision on the question.

So here goes…

Maybe you have walked through a zoo and saw a beautiful Green Tree Iguana lying on a heated floor instead of somewhere in Brazil in a tropical forest and you thought… “This is not right. The poor guy is on exhibition thousands of miles from home. He should be roaming free in some tropical forest!” And I would agree with you. The Iguana should be in Brazil in a tropical forest, eating fresh leaves in soft sunlight. But, here is the reality of its life:

At some point, someone wanted an Iguana as a pet. Let’s call him JD. So JD went to the local pet shop to make inquiries. The pet shop owner would have told him that Iguanas need a high level of care otherwise they don’t do very well as pets and recommended a dog. But JD persisted and found someone on the internet who can find an Iguana if he’d like. So he contacts this nice lady who promptly gets back to him with pictures of various Iguanas to choose from. He picks a small one, makes a payment and is now the proud owner of an exotic Green Tree Iguana. He Googles and finds information on “How to take care of your pet Iguana”. A cage, a light bulb, some fresh leaves and Bob’s your uncle. He builds an impressively large cage for the small animal and invites friends to come look at his crazy new pet. In time the “oohs” and “aahs” fade and the Iguana grows. It requires controlled temperatures in winter and summer. It needs a humid enclosure. It grows and it needs to climb and exercise. It starts to look a little off in colour and it grows. It starts to walk a little funny and it grows. JD has to build a bigger cage, more heating and more water. It grows. He sees a little bump on the back, but doesn’t think much of it. It’s eating and growing, so it should be fine.

And then one morning he looks at his huge, shaking, Iguana with a kink in its spine and realises that this pet of his is not healthy. It doesn’t come when it is called, it doesn’t cuddle, it costs a small fortune in electricity, water and building materials and it is not happy. So he looks for options out of this commitment. None of his friends want it because by now it is almost a meter and a half long. The internet lady no longer answers her phone. The pet shop doesn’t want it.

And then the light bulb!! A zoo! A zoo will take it. They would be able to build a suitable enclosure, keep it warm throughout the year, plant the right trees for climbing an eating and provide the right humidity by spraying the heated garden 3 times a day. They have staff to clean and feed and a qualified handler who will be able to sort out the shaking and skew backbone with the right treatment. The zoo will take the animal to the vet to have it x-rayed for deformities, or anything else that could be wrong and the zoo will not charge him anything to drop it off there because they don’t support the trade in exotic animals. Perfect!

So, JD packs the Iguana in his car, throws in a feeding bowl and a fake tree and sets off to the zoo where he is received…with a smile…and thanked for bringing it in. His Iguana will be taken care of. There are other Iguanas in the garden and that should take care of its social needs. It will recover from the shakes and its bone density will be monitored and built up with ongoing treatment. He did the right thing by bringing it to the zoo.

He asks what the entry fee is, because he’d like to go and have a look inside. The lady tells him. “What!” he says, “Why so much?”

I could really stop right here.

My dear, dear animal loving friends, there is an enormous need for good zoos to act as sanctuaries for animals that have been kept as pets and now have nowhere else to go. Zoos need the support of everyone out there who is as concerned as we are about the exotic pet trade, legal and illegal. This is just one of the many roles that zoos play in the preservation and care of animals.

So, if the question is “To Zoo or not To Zoo”…I would take one look at the exotic animals at Butterfly World Zoo, think of the alternative, and vote …To Zoo!

“So what can I do?” you ask.

Before you consider embarking on a, close-down-zoos-campaign, or sign a petition to that effect, visit your local zoo and pay your entrance fee. You will learn a lot, enjoy the serenity and help a great deal in taking care of the animals who otherwise have nowhere else to go.

And then…please, please please…

Wild animals belong in the wild.

Appreciate, don’t keep.