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We were asked how we would respond to someone who said the animals in our care should be set free. Jessi answers.

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Hello everyone.  Welcome back to Animal Wonders.  We got a great question from Jenney, who asked, "Which animals under your care have you learned the most from and how would you respond to someone suggesting that the animals you care for/animals in zoos deserve to be free?"

Great question, Jennie, thank you for asking.  I've definitely learned something from every animal I've cared for.  Joy the macaw, who was abused in previous homes, reminds me to be tender to those who've experienced trauma.  Zeema the toucan, who came to us with a broken leg, cut off flight feathers, and a severe respiratory infection reminds me to accept each animal for who they are, and because she has a disability, it's important to give her what she needs as an individual and not necessarily what others of her species need.  Mimi the marmoset, who was purchased as a pet and then discarded, taught me that sometimes you can feel love, sadness, joy, and determination all at the same time, and Blueberry the blue-tongued skink, who was improperly cared for by her previous owners and lost her toes taught me that it's my responsibility to teach others that caring for wild or exotic animals is a big deal and shouldn't be taken on unless you're dedicated to giving the animal a home in which they can thrive.

Every animal teaches me something new.  Sometimes I learn the same lesson, which instead of discouraging me, it makes me even more determined to continue my mission.  I want to lead by example, by showing kindness and respect to all those around me, whether they're human or non-human animals.  

When someone says an animal that's living in captivity should be free, I immediately wonder what their definition of 'free' is.  Animals living in the wild are forced to succumb to the pressures of predators, extreme weather changes, finding food and water, parasites, habitat loss from humans and other invasive species, and increasing levels of hazardous materials like plastic and pollution.  They do have some choices on where they can go and when they can move to a new location, but it's not a carefree situation for most of them, especially if they aren't high on the food chain.

Most animals in the wild have short lifespans compared to those living in captivity because once they become just a little big slower than those in peak physical condition, they become food for another animal.  I'm a big fan of natural cycles and nature is full of cycles, but most of them are quite unforgiving to individual lives.  Many animals in the wild live short, vibrant lives that end quite brutally, so when an animal comes to us because they were a discarded pet or an injured animal from the wild, I see it as an opportunity to offer that individual a comfortable life while giving them an important purpose, though different than their wild counterparts.  They become an ambassador for their species so we can teach others what makes them special, why they're important for their ecosystem, why we should care about them, and why we should fall in love with them.

If nobody teaches about and shares these animals with others, then nobody will care about them and no one will want to protect wild spaces where these animals live.  We'll lose more and more species and natural habitats that contain multitudes of individuals and unique natural cycles, diminishing biodiversity, and weakening ecosystems.  

Imagine for a moment if there were no ambassador animals to engage the public and be a conduit for them to learn to love an animal.  I know this is a controversial topic, but it's a very good example.  Think of how orcas were viewed before there were any in captivity.  They were feared and seen as dangerous or competition for fishermen.  They were mostly killed outright and no one batted an eye.  

When people began to see past the initial fear of them as ocean predators, they began to see how intelligent, social, and emotional they are.  People began to fall in love with them.  Through that love, they began to care deeply for their well-being, enough so to begin questioning their quality of life in captivity, and it all started because they were given the opportunity to get to know them on an individual level, up close and personal, which allowed them to make a connection and develop empathy for them.  

Creating opportunities for people to make connections with the animals in our care is our secondary goal to providing them a comfortable and enjoyable life.  Now, if we were to set any of the animals in our care free, they would simply not survive, but for them, the experience wouldn't be simple.  Most of them lack the skills to avoid predators, get enough food, and find shelter to protect themselves from the weather.

This is because they either came from the pet trade or they weren't raised by experienced parents or they're physically injured.  Many of them are also already past the life expectancy of those in the wild, like Serafina the fox, who is eight years old.  They typically live about four years in the wild before becoming a meal to a predator.  Sera has lived a comfortable life with easy access to food and shelter.  She gets to go on long runs and explore the forest and meadows until she's tired and then, she gets to go relax in a safe place.  If she were set free, she would probably enjoy a good run and then quickly die of hunger, exposure, and general old age limitations, like being slower than a predator at peak age and condition.

When I hear someone say they wish the animals we care for weren't living in captivity, I understand where they're coming from.  They want the animals to experience a good life.  They want them to be happy and do the things their bodies are well adapted to do.  They want them to run, fly, climb, dig.  In other words, they have empathy for their well-being, and that's something I am also passionate about, which is why I've spent my life trying to get animals that need help a good, happy, and healthy life, and then share them with others who will hopefully fall in love with them as much as I do and maybe, just maybe, they will help protect their wild counterparts by ensuring they continue to have wild places to live out their lives doing their wild things and maybe they will also see that those living in captivity help make that dream a possibility and that animals in captivity can also thrive with proper nutrition, positive reinforcement training, and expert husbandry.

Please let me know if you have any more thoughts on this subject.  I encourage everyone to regularly re-examine their feelings on topics that aren't straightforward.  By openly discussing these topics, it can be educational and often everyone learns a little something new.  

Please be respectful.  These discussions can often be emotional and remember that ultimately, we all come from the same place.  We care about animals.  Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.  If you'd like to continue our animal adventures every week, don't forget to subscribe and if you'd like to support this channel, you can join our community of amazing Patrons at  The link is below.  

Thanks, and we'll see you next week.