Saturday, 29 June 2019

Pray for the Birds?

There has been a call to ban the 'cruel' practise of zoos and other institutions of tethering birds of prey for extended periods, preventing them from engaging in their 'natural behaviour' of flight (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/28/charity-calls-for-total-ban-on-tethering-birds-of-prey). It is certainly the case that these animals need regular exercise to maintain their fitness and this is generally done with inanimate lures by people who use these animals in flight displays. One should note, however, that wild raptors generally have a life-style (as do many predators) characterised by long periods of rest interspersed by short bouts of vigorous activity when attempting a kill. I would agree that using very restricted caging is likely to detrimental to these birds. The complainants talk about the need to allow the birds to carry out their full range of natural behaviour, so-called 'environmental enrichment'. Naturalistic killing of vertebrates would not, however, be legal in UK zoos/ birds of prey centres and would be difficult to control without tethering. One must also caution that hand reared raptors are often imprinted on their human handlers and deviate from the naturalistic behaviour of their species (this makes it inappropriate to release them to the wild). This is a very difficult area in which sorting out the rights and wrongs is actually quite complex. 

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