The owner of the U.K.’s Howlett’s Wild Animal Park and Port Lympne Wildlife Park has said it before, and now he’s inviting the government to help him phase out all zoos in the country over the next 20-30 years.
Aspinall has been practicing what he preaches. He has already successfully returned an entire family of nine western lowland gorillas to the forest in Gabon in a moment he describes as “beautiful.”
“They just walked into the forest and started exploring,” he said.
Last year, his foundation’s Back to the Wild project also returned three black rhinos to the wild in Tanzania. Between 1996 and 2006, 51 gorillas were reintroduced to the region. And he’s currently planning to release six Javan gibbons, eight Javan langurs and two bull elephants into protected areas of the wild.
“No animal should be here to entertain us.”
Aspinall scoffs at the propaganda put forward by zoos that what they’re doing is valuable conservation work.
“If you’re a true conservationist and you truly believe in nature,” he told the Daily Express, “the ultimate goal is you don’t need zoos. They always throw education back at you though, but that’s total and utter nonsense.”
Aspinall has been particularly opposed to city zoos. “There is no way that city center zoos can be looking after animals properly because they simply do not have the space. I think they should all be closed.”
More from his interview with the Express:
“Zoos are stuck in a trap because they need to get the public in because otherwise they will go bust.
“And the only way they can get the public in is because the public is simply addicted to animal shows: they demand to see animals on display. But truthfully, if zoos did what was best for the animals, not what’s best for the public, they would be very different places.
“I absolutely feel sick in my stomach that zoos do animal shows. I come from a point of view where no animal should be here to entertain us.
“We’re supposed to be the intelligent species: surely we’re above having animals entertain our children. What we’re doing is culturalizing our children to say it’s OK that man is the dominant species.
“It’s just wrong. We need to de-culturalize the public and phase zoos out. There’s a role for government in this.”
Whether the British government would be any more eager than the U.S. Congress to go up against the zoo lobby is, of course, a whole other question.