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WHY ANIMAL DREAMING SUPPORTS ZOOS

Frequently Asked Questions about why Scott and Animal Dreaming choose to use Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife Parks as their venues of choice for their workshops, seminars and other major events:

1.    Why do you run your workshops at zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks?

Scott runs all of his major events (and even some of the smaller ones) at zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks because he believes them to be necessary evils in today’s world. Due to land-clearing, the illegal pet trade, the illegal trade in ‘bush meat’ and the strip-mining of coltan and other essential minerals in places as delicate as the Congo and the Amazon (among countless other forces negatively affecting their existence), our zoos have become sanctuaries, safe houses, refuges and shelters for the world’s rarest, most endangered and threatened species. Without them, these animals would have nowhere to retreat to, to hide or seek protection. We currently lose at least one species of bird, animal, fish or insect a day. In truth, the number of species lost is far greater than that, but it’s too difficult for the compassionate human brain to fully appreciate. For example, we’ve lost nearly 98% of our wild born lowland Gorilla population in the last five or so years due to man’s need to stay in touch! In every mobile phone that’s sold, a small piece of mineral called ‘coltan’ is strip-mined in the Congo. As the miners move into the forests, cutting their way through the thick undergrowth, they open the jungle up to poachers who follow them in and shoot whole families of Gorillas, Chimps, Bonobos and other primates, which they then butcher and sell as bush meat into fancy restaurants all over the world. So, to raise awareness to what’s happening, he chooses to bring the people to the animals the only way he can … by offering his events at zoos and wildlife parks. He believes that, by being in such close proximity to the animals, hearing their calls, smelling their odour and seeing them in the flesh, he will help to instil a sense of compassion in the hearts of those who attend. It’s his belief that if he can help the people fall in love with the animals he’s trying to protect, then they will be more inclined to help him. After all, it’s impossible to hurt something you love. But as it is, we’ve become so detached from ourselves (let alone the animals), what chance does he have to make this happen, to help the people fall in love with the animals unless he brings the people to the animals?

Did you know that:

•    One half of the world’s species will be extinct within the next 100 years; one quarter of all known mammals will be extinct within the next 30 years.
•    As many as 137 species disappear from the Earth each day; 50,000 species every year
•    Humans are to blame for greatest mass extinction of species since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.
•    Every habitat on every continent contains endangered species.
•    Over the past 600 million years, extinction has only taken place at a rate of one species a year. Now, in the world’s rainforests alone, we are losing 27,000 per year; 72 species a day; three every hour.
•    In all of Mother Earth’s four billion year history, she has experienced five major extinctions. We are currently on the verge of another one.
•    Animals are dying out an alarming rate: 1000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction.
•    The population of the world’s wild Tigers has declined by 95% in the past 100 years. Of the five known species of Tiger, three are now classified as extinct. There are only 5000 Tigers left in the wild. One tiger is killed every day to support the international trade in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
•    The population of the world’s wild Black Rhinoceros’ has declined by 97% in the past 30 years.
•    The population of the world’s Orang-utan has declined by 50% in the last decade. Sumatran Orang-utans are currently listed as severely threatened. It is predicted that Sumatran Orang-utans will be extinct within the next five years.
•    The population of the world’s Sharks has declined by 80% in the past 15 years. 100 million Sharks are caught annually to feed consumer demand for Shark-fin soup. Half of the Sharks caught have their dorsal fins sliced off while they are still alive.
•    There are only 4,500 Snow leopards left in the wild.
•    Every species of Asian Bear is currently classified as endangered. Despite their vulnerable status, they continue to be poached for their gall bladders and paws, many of which are amputated without anaesthetic. 7000 Bears are currently imprisoned on bile farms, ‘harvested’ for their gall bile.
•    Sea Turtles have swum the world’s oceans since the reign of the Dinosaurs. Today, it is a sad fact that all species of Sea Turtle face extinction.
•    1000 Dolphins are killed every day; one every two minutes.
•    In the wild, Elephants live up to 70 years, but today very few get to enjoy a natural death.
•    The population of the world’s wild Asian Elephants has declined by 75%
•    At least 30,000 Blue Whales were once killed annually. Less than 6,000 Blue Whales exist in the world’s oceans today. It will take more than one hundred years of serious, international protection to save the Blue Whale from extinction.
•    1 in 8 bird species are in danger of extinction
•    1 in 3 amphibian species are in danger of extinction
•    Half of the world’s fresh water turtle species are in danger of extinction
•    Nearly half of the world’s 235 species of primate are threatened by extinction
•    Less than 500 Mountain Gorillas exist in the wild today
•    Less than 300 Sumatran Rhinos exist in the wild today
•    Less than 60 Javan Rhinos exist in the wild today
•    Less than 50 Florida Cougars exist in the wild today
•    Less than 200 Siberian Tigers exist in the wild today
•    Less than 3000 Komodo Dragons exist in the wild today
•    Less than 150 Golden Lion Tamarins exist in the wild today
•    Less than 1600 Giant Pandas exist in the wild today

If it weren’t for the dedication and passion of our zoo keepers, and the protection offered by our world-class zoos, many of the animals listed above would stand no chance of surviving as a species. And it’s for this reason that Scott totally supports our zoos and wildlife parks and why he will ALWAYS use zoos as his venues of choice when he offers his seminars workshops, events and talks to the public.

2.    Aren’t you encouraging the continuation of zoos by supporting them by using them as your venue of choice?

We hope so. We truly do.

The truth is, Scott is no different to anyone else. Like you, he wishes there was no need to have zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks in the world. But while he sometimes day dreams about letting all the world’s ‘zoo animals’ out to live free lives, he’s also aware that without zoos, we wouldn’t have half the animals we still do. Most of them would have been lost to poaching, hunting, habitat loss, land development, fashion, alternative medicines, bush meat, the pet trade and a plethora of other influences. Without the commitment of zoos the world over to secure and maintain the world’s rarest creatures, many of the world’s most endangered animals would not have the chance to breed in safety, to build their numbers in a protected environment or to live their life free of being shot, harmed or having their young stolen and sold into the pet industry. All of the world’s major, most respected zoos are linked. They all know one another, and together, they all work to keep a record of the endangered and threatened species the world over. They also cooperate in captive breeding programs, keeping watch on the bloodlines and lineage of the animals involved. They swap and share the animals they’re trying to protect and save, with little or no ego involved in who has what animal on display. They’re more for the animals now than their own wants and desires.

3.    What good can come of having zoos and wildlife parks in the world?

A lot of good can come from having zoos and wildlife parks in the world. For example, Scott wants for his children to grow up in a world where Gorillas still exist. Without zoos, this simple ‘want’ will surely become an impossible dream within the next 15 years, if nothing is done to stop the wild harvesting of Gorilla meat. Scott also wants his children to grow up in a world where Tigers still exist. Without zoos, we will surely see Tigers become so rare (if not lost altogether) within the next decade or so if nothing is done to protect them against being poached illegally to feed the demand for traditional Chinese Medicines other exotic remedies. Trade in Chinese medicine is worth billions of dollars to China annually, with demand continuing to grow. Sadly, many traditional practitioners are resisting foreign demand for regulation of their practises to protect endangered species. Of the eight subspecies of Tiger, two stand out as the most famous: the Bengal and the Sumatran. Unfortunately, due to poaching, there are only about 5,000 Bengal Tigers and between 300 and 500 Sumatran Tigers in the wild today. The Indochinese Tiger is limited to only 2000 wild individuals, the South Chinese (or Amoy) Tiger to about 100, while the Siberian population is barely worth mentioning with approximately 450 animals left in the wild today. Sadly, the Javan, Balinese and Caspian Tigers have all been lost to extinction over the past 50 years. Today, one Tiger is killed every day to meet the international demand for Traditional Chinese Medicine. Every part of the animal’s body is used for one remedy or another. Moon Bears, too, are enslaved and killed for unsubstantiated ‘medicinal’ reasons. Taken from the wild by ‘Bear Farmers’ at three months of age (usually at the fatal cost of their mother), Moon Bears are trained as circus animals to walk tightropes and perform inane tricks until they are 18 months of age. They are then confined to tiny cages that totally restrict movement and ‘milked’ of their bile at three years of age. Valves are inserted (without anaesthesia) into the gall bladder in order to drain the bile. Sometimes hollow steel tubes are simply pushed through the animal’s abdomen, allowing the bile to drain into strategically placed bowls. Veterinarians are seldom employed to perform the procedure. Despite a clear and obvious lack of proven medicinal worth, the bile is harvested and sold as a traditional remedy for fever, liver failure and sore eyes, usually in the form of pills and powders, ointments, wines, lozenges, teas, and shampoos. Moon Bears are also hunted for their paws, meat, brain, blood and bone and other body-parts, which are served as delicacies in restaurants. The American Black Bear, Grizzly Bear and Polar Bear are also illegally targeted for their ‘medicinally prized’ body parts. Rhinoceros horn is also high on the list of most revered ingredients in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is believed to hold properties that, when consumed internally as a powder, offer aphrodisiacal outcomes while simultaneously curing impotency, worms, epilepsy, vertigo, fever, stomach ache, convulsions and smallpox. Not surprisingly, the same effect could be achieved by biting one’s fingernails, as both the horn of the Rhinoceros and human fingernails are constructed from interwoven keratin fibres: the same ‘stuff’ human hair is made of. In short, zoos are not so much interested in ‘entertaining’ their patrons anymore. That’s the last thing they’re concerned about. What they’re more interested in these days is ‘educating’ their patrons. Education and conservation are the two driving forces that maintain the existence of zoos today. Without zoos and the vital role they play in conserving our most endangered species and educating their patrons about what they can do to help, we would not have half the animals in the world that we do today.

4.    Aren’t the animals sad and depressed being caged like they are? Doesn’t being caged hinder their natural behaviour?

Zookeepers and conservation professionals the world over are totally aware of what has become known as ‘zoochosis’, with most reputable zoos and conservation parks introducing extensive programs to enrich the environment of their animals in the hopes of avoiding zoochosis, which is often caused by extreme depression and boredom. Zoochosis can occur in both captive-bred and wild-caught animals, and it appears to be fundamentally rooted in boredom and frustration. The condition is made much worse in zoos with poor living conditions or abusive keepers. Symptoms sometimes include rocking back and forth, excessive swaying, self mutilation, excessive licking, bar biting, pacing, circling, chewing, neck twisting and abnormal eating habits such as anorexia. Some animal rights advocates argue that animals should not be kept in captivity, using zoochosis as a reason to release zoo animals back into the wild. This is not always an option, however. Many zoos and conservation parks house critically endangered species, and releasing the animals could condemn them to death or worse, for one reason or another. It’s not uncommon for captive bred animals to no longer display true ‘natural behaviour’. Many animals kept in Australia are off-springs of animals born into captivity, so the natural desire to hunt and forage meaningfully, let alone know how to survive in the wild, is often been lost along the way. Simply letting these animals go free, therefore, could prove more harmful than good. Many would die of starvation or from being attacked by other wild animals that may see them as a threat to their territory. The captive bred Tigers we see in many of Australia’s zoos, for example, are not pure bred. Most are hybrid (an animal that is the result of two different species being crossbred). In fact, I’m unsure if we have any totally pure bred Tigers in Australia. Releasing these creatures back into the wild, while it may sound romantic and ‘right’, would only see the pure bred, wild animals crossbreeding with these non-pure strains, thus permanently damaging what is left of the (albeit small and dwindling) wild born colonies. So, instead, whether captive-born or not, there are many things that today’s zoos do (passionately) to ensure their animals live a good quality, healthy and happy life. Concrete lined cages and bar-fronted exhibits are a thing of the past now in most good zoos, as are cages that are devoid of greenery and flowing water. Building better habitats is a primary goal for all of the world’s major zoos, particularly in their united fight against zoochosis. There is a major push for ‘green’ environments that mirror the natural habitats of the animals in question, for example. Most zoos also enrich their enclosures with toys, puzzles, and learning games to keep their animals active and interested. Some zoos have even introduced exhibits so natural that a range of species that would normally exist side by side in the wild are being housed together in captivity, allowing animals to interact more naturally with their environment and each other. Some zoos encourage their keepers to engage with their animals directly, playing games with them to stimulate their minds and bodies.

5.    Isn’t offering workshops at places like Sea World encouraging the capture and captive-keeping of Dolphins and Whales? Shouldn’t these animals be allowed to swim free?

This is a great question.

With the release of the documentary, ‘The Cove’, in 2009, much attention has been focused on Japan’s Dolphin-hunting culture and the keeping of captive Dolphins in Aquariums all over the world. The documentary itself was made as a ‘call to action’ to halt mass Dolphin kills and to change Japan’s fishing practices. The documentary, told from Dolphin-trainer turned ocean conservationist and former Sea Shepherd activist, Ric O’Barry’s (who helped capture and train the five wild Dolphins who shared the role of ‘Flipper’ in the hit television series of the same name) perspective, highlights the fact that the number of Dolphins killed in the Taiji Dolphin hunting drive is several times greater than the number of Whales killed in the Antarctic. It claims that 23,000 Dolphins and Porpoises are killed in Japan every year by the country’s whaling industry. The migrating Dolphins are herded into a cove where they are netted and killed by means of spears and knives over the side of small fishing boats. The film argues that Dolphin hunting as practiced in Japan is unnecessary and cruel. A belief shared by Scott and Animal Dreaming. Sadly, the Dolphin hunt is, to a large degree, motivated by financial gain and greed; the revenue generated by selling some of the captured Dolphins to aquariums and marine parks all over the world is tremendous. The Dolphins that are not sold into captivity are slaughtered in the cove, with their meat sold to supermarkets in Japan and other neighbouring countries. Now … while this may be true to a point, the point Scott and Animal Dreaming would like to make is: NONE of these captured Dolphins have made their way to Australia. And that’s the truth. None of the Dolphins captured in the cove have been purchased by ANY of Australia’s parks or aquariums. There are NO Japanese-sourced Dolphins at Australia’s Sea World (in Queensland), or anywhere else in Australia. Sea World is totally against the Dolphin hunts documented in The Cove. They do not purchase their animals from these hunts, with approximately 80% of their marine mammals having been born into the park, with the rest rescued from the wild due to injury or disease (often with injuries so severe that their release was rendered impossible). And if there were Japanese-sourced Dolphins in any of our marine parks and aquariums, neither Scott nor Animal Dreaming would endorse them. Instead, we choose to offer our events at Sea World and other marine parks to protest AGAINST the capture and slaughter of wild born Dolphins. By offering his events at these parks, Scott is given a powerful platform from which to raise awareness and to fight against them ever happening again.  By bringing the people to the Dolphins, to see them and to (perhaps) touch them, offers the people the rare chance (he believes) to fall in love with these amazing animals because, as he’s always said, it’s impossible to harm anything or to see harm come to anything that you love.

6.    Isn’t it cruel to force Dolphins and other aquatic creatures to perform for the entertainment of humans?

Yes it is cruel to FORCE any animal (aquatic or not) to do something it doesn’t want to do. It’s also cruel to force any animal to do something it’s not naturally inclined or ‘built’ to do.

In fact, in Australia, it’s illegal to mistreat or torture an animal in any way at all. While we still have some way to go to protect the animals owned by private circuses and travelling carnivals and fairs, the Dolphins and other marine creatures at Sea World and all the marine parks in Australia are protected by these laws, just as all the mammals, birds, reptiles and even insects in our zoos and wildlife parks are.

It is now a fundamental fact that all good zoos and aquariums must provide their exhibited animals with appropriate stimulation and activity-based enrichment programs designed to replicate or simulate activities they would normally engage in the wild. Animal enrichment is an important part of caring for captive animals and is essential to their physical and psychological health and wellbeing. For example, many zoos will:

•    Provide fresh animal carcasses to stimulate pack behaviour, introduce rotten tree trunks filled with termites, release live insects or scatter fresh flowers to promote natural foraging behaviour or release live fish in ponds and streams to stimulate natural hunting behaviour
•    Install water misters to add humidity and atmosphere for animals that would normally enjoy it in the wild (tropical rainforest species, for example)
•    Regularly change fresh foliage and branches to rouse new interest in their enclosures
•    Pack pine cones with popcorn or offer papier mache toys filled with nuts and dried fruits to encourage curiosity and play among smaller mammals and primates
•    Scatter fragrant dried herbs or smear essential oils, peanut butter, jam and yoghurt, fresh liver scent or even chicken essence on logs and rocks to offer new smells and the desire to seek out their source
•    Provide frozen fruit like watermelon or leaf litter with hidden food treats such as whole walnuts as treats on hot or wet days

And the same goes for marine parks and aquariums, who are equally as dedicated to providing their exhibited animals with stimulating and meaningful enrichment programs. Except when they’re hunting, Dolphins spend most of their life within 18 metres of the ocean’s surface and just like all mammals, Dolphins breathe air. They generally rise to the surface to breathe every two to five minutes. And it’s while taking these breaths of air that Dolphins are often seen poking their heads clear of the water. Dolphins have very good eyesight, both underwater and above the water’s surface. When a boat happens by, a Dolphin will often rise its head out of the water to not only take a breath, but to have a closer look at the boat! Dolphins will rise together, dive together and swim together in synchronised style, leaping clear of the water in pairs or trios or swimming side by side at incredible speeds with nothing apparently prompting them but the thrill of the chase. Dolphins are sometimes seen swimming together, united by touch, with the fin tip of one slightly touching the fin tip of the other. It’s almost as if they are holding hands, swimming side by side, half asleep, with their eyes closed. They may also stroke each other’s bodies, brushing their fins across each other’s throats, chests, bellies and genitals. They have also been seen swimming just behind another’s tail, with the Dolphin being followed having to arch one way and the other to peer at the one trailing behind from either eye. This is a game wild Dolphins seem to enjoy. And it’s these games that the keepers at marine parks like Sea World aim to replicate or simulate during the training sessions they conduct with their animals. It’s these same natural abilities and tendencies too that they aim to showcase during their Dolphin Shows and displays. It should also be noted that Dolphins can be potentially dangerous to humans. There have also been reported cases of wild Dolphins intentionally attacking humans. Sure, the Dolphins at Sea World may be ‘trained’, but they are most certainly still wild. There is a world of difference between being ‘trained’ and ‘domesticated’ (like Dogs, Cattle and Horses are) and ‘trained’ and ‘tame’ (like a pet Cockatoo or Rabbit might be). In fact, captive Dolphins are probably just as, if not more, dangerous than wild Dolphins. There is popular misconception that Dolphins are inherently playful and friendly toward humans. We like Dolphins, so we like to think that Dolphins like us. The cold hard truth, however, is that Dolphins (like Tigers and Bears) are large, powerful and highly intelligent apex predators that are both independent of thought and unpredictable at all times. Aggressive behaviour in captivity is not uncommon, which some might say is due to their inability to avoid human interaction. It’s a fact that pretty much all people who work with marine mammals will report some form of injury at some time, and if you regularly engage in ‘swim with the Dolphin’ activities, you must assume that at some point you will experience one form of injury or another, from a laceration to a broken bone or shock. Swimming with Dolphins, for example, may see you butted, pushed aside or rammed, behaviour which is quite common among wild Dolphins, so much so that it should be noted that wild male Bottlenose Dolphins are sometimes known to commit infanticide, regularly coerce females to mate and even intentionally stalk and kill Harbour Porpoises without provocation.

The point we’re trying to make here is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to FORCE a Dolphin to do anything it doesn’t want to, let alone perform against its will for the sheer delight of a paying audience. If a Dolphin, like a Tiger or Bear, doesn’t want to do something, it won’t. And if you try to force it to do something it doesn’t want to do, then be prepared to pay the consequences. The Dolphins at Sea World enjoy the activities they engage in. They participate because they want to. Their lives are enriched by the experience; otherwise they wouldn’t participate in them. And it’s a simple fact that if the Dolphins at Sea World were not happy, they wouldn’t breed in their captive homes as readily (and naturally) as they do.

7.    What can I do to help raise awareness? What can I do to help Animal Dreaming support the world’s animals?

Here is a good list of things that you can do to help Scott and Animal Dreaming help the animals:

•    Boycott travelling animal shows in which animals are often neglected or abused.
•    Never purchase wild or exotic animals as pets. Many of these animals are taken directly from the wild and purchasing them only exacerbates the inhumane trade in exotic animals as ‘pets’.
•    Share your views by contacting your local newspaper, magazine or radio station regarding issues regarding animal welfare, or write to your local, state, and federal government officials about upcoming bills and/or animal rights.
•    Arrange for an animal expert to visit your children’s school and speak to your child’s class in an attempt to raise awareness or dissuade the misconceptions surrounding some species of animal.
•    Buy products and goods that do not have wrapping that will end up in landfill areas; areas that help reduce natural habitat for wildlife.
•    Reuse what you can, recycle what you can’t, but no matter what, try to reduce the output of household garbage and make sure you place your trash in bins with a secure lid.
•    Cut-up six-pack rings that hold together soft drink and alcohol cans, thus reducing the chances of them becoming caught around the necks of birds and animals.
•    Never take wild animals out of the wild and keep them as a pet … Frogs and Tadpoles, for example.
•    Encourage birds and small native mammals into your garden by planting ‘feed’ trees, flowering shrubs and plants that bear fruit, nuts and seeds. Put out seed during the winter months only … it is during the colder periods that birds have the greatest difficulty finding plentiful food.
•    Place a bird bath in your garden, or a bowl of fresh water under your garden tap.
•    Initiate a community based campaign to clean up a stream, wetland or park.
•    Volunteer at your local animal shelter or apprentice yourself to a wildlife rescue officer and establish your own registered care facility at home.
•    Avoid using chemical based products in and around your home.
•    Avoid products that rely on animal testing.
•    Boycott companies that rely on vivisection and other such research techniques.
•    Only buy products that are manufactured from materials that have been harvested in a sustainable way and boycott companies uncommitted to biodiversity, conservation and sustainable forest management
•    Only use humane animal traps. That way the target animal can be re-housed and you won’t run the risk of accidentally killing other animals as well.
•    Print this list out and share it with your friends!