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Animal Exhibitors: No Laughing Matter

by Linda Jenkinson |

mother hyena and cub on the Masai mara
"[Hyenas] are very important to the health of the ecosystem," says Marion East of the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. "As scavengers, they clean up a huge amount of dead matter. As hunters, they probably help maintain the genetic health of the great herds."

I have always been a fan of hyenas. I like their odd appearance. They look like they are made of the left over parts of the animal kingdom: head too small, neck too thick, backs that slope down from long front legs to shorter, powerful rear legs.

I admire their daring and cunning, too. Their call is a hysterical, almost maniacal laugh as if they were getting the last laugh on their enemies.

Hyenas are one of very few species that will overtly try (and often succeed) to steal prey from a pride of lions. Like lions, hyenas live in close-knit family groups called clans. In fact, the Masai leave corpses in the bush, knowing that hyenas will dispose of them. Indeed, it is the hyenas' ability to eat almost anything that makes them an invaluable addition to the African ecosystem.

The other day, I encountered a video where the laughter stops at horrible abuse of these curious animals.

It is shameful that the Nigerian government doesn’t stop this disgraceful behavior.

These captive hyenas are wild animals, living beings who have a right to live with dignity and impunity. Are they ever off leash? Are they ever free of the fear of being hit or poked with a pole or other stick?

Working animals have always been our friends, companions and partners. The oxen that pulls the plow, the cow that gives her milk, the dogs that guard our property, the camels, elephants, and horses we conscript to help us do the jobs that are too difficult for us to do alone—these working animals are respected and generally well cared for by their owners because their welfare and survival directly affects the owner's own welfare and survival. That is the way life was meant to be. It is only human greed that has changed our relationship with animals.

The misery of these hyenas is displayed purely for the entertainment of the crowd. They are not domesticated as elephants, llamas, and camels can be and dogs, horses, and other farm animals are. Hyenas are wild animals and while you can hold them captive, you will never tame them without breaking their spirit. No wild animal is meant to work for our entertainment. We are meant to enjoy them in their natural habitats, admiring their innate skills and beauty, not exploiting them.

If each of us doesn't do everything in our power to make this world a better place, it will never become better. Global warming, the horrific number of endangered species, oceanic pollution are just three of the problems caused by those who “Leave the bigger picture to cultural evolution”.

If you are like me, you can’t do much but you can speak up when you see that something is wrong. See something. Say something.


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