Zoo animals need more protection from foolhardy humans.

The demise of Eko, an endangered tiger at Naples zoo, is another example of why zoo animals need more protection from foolhardy human visitors.

The death by shooting of Eko, an endangered tiger at Naples Zoo, is another example of why zoo animals need more protection from human visitors. The emphasis should be more on keeping the animals safe from us rather than the other way round.

Killing endangered captive animals through no fault of their own.

Captive zoo animals, particularly endangered species, must feel pretty positive about their lives and existence. They are more often than not pampered as valued inmates, usually part of a breeding programme and are celebrity attractions. Little do they realise though that in the blink of an eye they can be killed through no fault of their own.

Incidents over the last couple of decades have proved that it is an unfortunate fact that no zoo animal is completely safe at the hands of their humans keepers. Recently, (December 2021) yet another endangered animal had its life cut short by the idiotic behaviour of a human. This time it was a  critically endangered Malaysian tiger named Eko in the Naples Zoo in Florida. The unfortunate animal was shot and wounded, then sedated and finally died of his injuries all because of failures in health and safety, staff training and our desire to treat all animals as fluffy beings

The zoo was quick to issue a statement that Eko was much loved and died quickly from internal bleeding. They have set up a conservation fund for people to honour his death and asked the public to respect the feelings of the staff. I am sure Eko would have been pleased.

Zoo animals need more protection from foolhardy humans.

His early death was caused by a contract cleaner, who decided to put his arm through the bars to presumably stroke Eko who grabbed and mauled the arm of this unfamiliar human who was invading his space. The comment from the zoo was “This was a tragic encounter at our world-class zoo facility.” Hardly world class if they allow unsupervised outsiders to behave in such a manner.

Eko the tiger joins many others who over the years have suffered similar fates. It has become a regular habit for us to kill critically endangered captive animals through no fault of their own.

In September 2021 another tiger was shot and killed at the Delhi Zoo when a young man decided to jump down into its enclosure. And of course there is the case of the infamous shooting of 17 year old Harambe, the endangered lowland gorilla, who was shot by a Cincinnati zoo marksman when a child fell into his enclosure.

Harambe gorilla with child in moat Cincinnati zoo
Harambe was shot and killed even though he didn’t appear aggressive.

Human life will always take precedence over that of an animal.

Zoo officials were afraid for the child’s life and although the zoo was criticised for not doing more to save the child and Harambe, Mr Holloway, a zoo spokesman stated, screams from the crowd further agitated Harambe and it’s a horrible call to have to makebut human life will always take precedence over the animal.

Zoo animals are also regularly killed in the name of research and conservation, a practice called zoonasia and mainly kept hidden from the public. This was highlighted in the case of Marius the giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo who was killed because he didn’t fit the criteria for breeding his species. His death was covered worldwide in the press and social media.

There has been much discussion worldwide in the past of the dangers to the public visiting zoos particularly after each fatal incident. It has been estimated that there have been 256 injuries to the public and keepers over the last 26 years but only 33 deaths. This figure seems rather conservative. But it is more a question of how many animals the zoos are killing.

Time to keep captive endangered species away from the public.

The moral of the story for captive zoo animals is that their life is at the discretion of zoo scientists, veterinary surgeons, zoo directors and the actions of the public.  Although animals like Harambe and Eko may be sentient, are endangered and protected species, are disappearing at an alarming rate in the wild and maybe doing there bit for conserving their species by being part of a breeding program, none of this saves them or is of any consequence if they react to some stupidity on our part.

We will never save the life of an animal at the expense of a human, but we could accept they are wild animals and not retaliate when a human causes an incident. And if we are serious about saving species by zoo breeding, keep the animals away and out of view of the public so they can get on with the business of breeding undisturbed like humans prefer.

Remembering the carers of the war horses.

We tend to overlook the men who often risked their lives to care for and safeguard their comrades the war horses under atrocious conditions while in action at the front.

When we think of the war horses during the remembrance period we tend to overlook the men who risked their lives to safeguard and care for them, particularly while in action at the front. These men not only witnessed the horrors of their human comrades being killed and mutilated but also their equine comrades. My grandfather Edwin Clark was one of these men.

Men were often killed caring for their beloved horses.

At about 6 p.m. on the evening of the 30th. September 1918 my grandfather Edwin Clark and his fellow artillery drivers of the 13th. Battery Canadian Field Artillery were “feeding-up” and watering their war horses at the wagon and horse line a mile back from the front line near the town of Raillencourt.

Suddenly they heard an aircraft approaching. It was a German plane and before they could take cover it dropped some newly invented  “Daisy-Clipper” bombs into the middle of the horse lines. They were designed to explode a few inches from the ground throwing shrapnel all around. The bombs killed one driver named Wishart and badly wounded nine others including Edwin. He received his third wound of the war, hit by shrapnel in his upper thigh, but survived. Many of the poor horses were killed, injured or fled. The scene was described in this way in the battalion war diary:

“The affair was over in less than 30 seconds but the bursting charges, the shouts of the men and the agonised shrieks of injured and terrified horses made a scene of indescribable chaos”

I cannot imagine my grandfather’s state of mind at that precise moment surrounded by crying injured men, shrieking horses, the sound of shots as horses were put out of their misery and the smell of cordite and blood. Hopefully he was too shocked and dazed to take it all in.

war horses, horses in war
War horse being treated for shrapnel wounds. They were viewed as legitimate targets.

The war horses were viewed as legitimate targets.

The horses and mules were viewed as legitimate targets by both sides due to their importance in supplying the gun batteries with ammunition as well as transporting the guns. They faced being shelled, bombed, gassed, sometimes shot and suffered horrific shrapnel injuries. Many suffered shell shock and remarkably others learned to lie down and take cover when under fire.

An officer wrote in the war diary that:

“the duty of the ‘stable pickets’ was an unenviable one, especially at night, when horse lines were being bombed or shelled. Quite apart from the danger of the explosions, there was always the chance of the picket ropes breaking and the horses stampeding. Horses frequently fought and kicked, becoming entangled in ropes and had to be followed and caught in the dark.”

 Like most of the human recruits, the horses had never experienced such noise, chaos, smells, violence and hardships and they did not have the capacity to realise what was happening to them or likely to happen to them. So everything occurring around them was terrifying until they became accustomed to it.

War horses in Great war, war horses
The horses were friends, comrades and confidents. They were in it together.

The ultimate example of man’s dependence on animals for solace.

The horses and mules became friends, confidants, fellow comrades and pseudo counsellors with whom the men could air their grievances, discuss their suffering and help alleviate their depression and melancholy. Without their companionship, the physical and mental well-being of the men would have been far worse than it was. The relationship is probably one of the ultimate examples of man’s dependence on animals for solace.

The men spent most of their waking hours caring for them often under almost impossible conditions. They fought together, rested and ate together, often slept together and ultimately died together. They were in it together. There is no getting away from the fact that their lives were unforgiving and unremitting, but at the same time the men responsible for them lavished as much care as they could to alleviate their suffering and formed incredible bonds with them.

An officer responsible for vetting his men’s letters home wrote in the war diary:

Drivers often almost wept as they wrote of their faithful friends – the horses – wishing so much that they could be given more feed and better shelter. Such care and attention they gave these dumb animals. When nothing else was available an old sock was used to rub them down or to bandage a cracked heel, while breast collar and girth galls were eased by wrapping light articles around the harness to keep it from rubbing against the sore spot.”

It is impossible for me to visualise or comprehend the carnage and horrors my grandfather must have witnessed to both humans and horses as it is the stuff of nightmares, but I like to think that my grandfather was a humane man and did all that he could to ease the suffering of the horses and mules in his care.

I am so proud of him that I wrote a book about his experiences and the life of war horses at the western front. BUY IT NOW from Bitzabooks.com the publisher using the PayPal link below or from Amazon Books.
War horses. There From the Start book cover
RRP £9.99 ISBN: 9781094956763 UK orders £11.00 including shipping using PayPal button below. Shipped direct from publisher bitzabooks.com

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