Sunday, 28 December 2008

Zooropa

Just before Christmas the BBC reported that Elephants 'Die Earlier in Zoos'. Now this should reach deep in to your consciousness and give you a good shake as the researchers involved in this story found that:

1) obesity is a major cause of death,
2) they also cite stress as the key factor in the death of young captive animals

Khyune Mar from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at Sheffield University noted the following:
  • "[Zoo elephants] have a very monotonous lifestyle, every day is the same for [them], they have to live in the same compound, with limited roaming, this makes them more stressed,"

A member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was quoted as saying 'diet and lifestyle are the key factors influencing elephant lifespan in zoos'. Now I don't want to state the obvious - but does this scenario ring any bells yet? An obese population, chronic stress, early death?

Dr Mar went on to draw parallels with working elephants who enjoy greater health and longevity:

  • "We keep working elephants in the workforce for no more than six to eight hours a day. For the remaining hours we let them loose in the forest, they live like wild elephants, they can meet and mate with wild elephants, they have a full elephant life, good exercise and good food"

I am no elephant expert and don't want to draw too many parallels between elephants and humans, but this story has brought a smile on my face.

The underlying message here is that of following innate behaviours and especially the 'seeking out of novelty'. Now as usual, I am sure many of us would disagree on what constitutes 'good food' and 'good exercise'. I feel that whilst Dr Mar would classify good exercise as that prescribed by 'life in the wild' - as would, I am sure that the good doctor would NOT go so far as to state that good foods are also those prescribed by life in the wild. (I would actually like to challenge the doctor on this).

For those who do no exercise, or follow some heavily-blanded gym routine (including everything from 'classic' weight routines to spinning and jogging), and those who eat junk food (the traditional kind and the 'health food' kind of junk food), this is your wake up call.....!

I have read before that the brains of wild animals weigh more than their domesticated cousins. I have also seen animals looking hopelessly glassy-eyed in zoo enclosures. In 2009, I for one will try to limit work to eight hours - after which I will let myself loose in the forest!

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