One in five people surveyed in a YouGov poll for Metroxpress said that visiting the zoo made them more sad than happy, and a quarter answered that this was because it seemed like the animals weren’t happy.
However, Mads Bertelsen, a vet at Copenhagen Zoo and adjunt professor in zoology at the University of Copenhagen, told Metroxpress he doesn’t believe this to be the case.
“Our animals aren’t unhappy, but if some of our visitors get that impression, there’s something we aren’t getting across well enough,” he said.
According to Bertelsen, a zoo animal’s happiness isn’t directly connected to the size of its enclosure.
“A sea lion won’t be happy with an area the size of Funen to romp around in if it doesn’t have water,” he said.
“The animal should have the opportunity to behave naturally. For example, if an animal needs to dig, climb, dive or fly, the enclosure should allow that.”
Jan Ladewig, a professor in animal welfare at the University of Copenhagen, agrees that recreating natural conditions is the goal, but believes that there are limits to achieving this.
“The conditions we give animals in zoos, and animals in captivity generally, are far from the conditions animals naturally live under. Even though I know that we make a big effort to create natural conditions, there will be limitations, and that is a big problem.” he said.
Nevertheless, he sees value in keeping certain animals in captivity.
“The alternative is to live in Africa and be hunted by hunters. And then we risk them dying out. We should also remember that zoos are protecting endangered species.”