In the wild, bears do not ride bicycles or dance,
elephants do not balance on platforms, and lions and tigers do not
jump through flaming hoops. Instead, they form complex and nurturing
relationships and play important roles in our ecosystem.
Elephants live over 70 years in their natural
habitat; the average life span of a captive elephant is 14
years (captivity-induced foot problems and arthritis are the
most common reasons for euthanasia in captive elephants).
Elephants walk up to 50 miles each day
in the wild.
Elephants have the largest brain of all
mammals, and use tools to swat flies, scratch, and sweep paths,
and mud and leaves to protect their skin (they have surprisingly
sensitive skin-they are able to feel an insect bite). They
have commonly learned to understand 60 words in captivity.
Very close matriarchal family groups form
elephant communities, and each family is connected to others
by their affection for them.
Elephants have been known to cradle the
skulls of dead relatives and rock back and forth.
Complex vocalizations characterize elephant
communication-they call to each other when they're eating,
moving, or calling a young elephant that has strayed, and
cry from pain, frustration, and sadness. Mother elephants
quietly hum and sing to their babies to keep them happy.
Every member of the family group helps
take care of babies and other young elephants, and is gentle
and tolerant of them.
Young elephants stay with their families
for about 15 years, learning important skills and developing
Elephants are extremely social and affectionate,
and are sensitive, individual, and intelligent.
Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Susan McCarthy, Jeffrey
A study of the
complex emotional lives of animals provides fascinating insights
into and anecdotes about the existence of animal emotion and
offers a compelling analysis of the ways in which humans treat
Brown bears usually have two or three cubs
at a time; the cubs stay with their mothers for about three
Bears are not malicious creatures, and
usually try to avoid conflict with humans unless they are
forced into it. Bears can coexist peacefully with humans as
long as they are not shot, harassed, or otherwise abused;
they will habituate to their surroundings, whether there are
people in them or not.
They eat berries, nuts, and other vegetation,
they fish with their sensitive front paws, and hunt caribou,
moose, and other herd animals.
Bears are not territorial, and when they
meet other families from their area, there are complex social
exchanges. They have a social structure within their family
group that consists of a dominance hierarchy ranging from
the strongest male to the smallest cub.
Bears communicate by seeing, touching,
vocalizing, and smelling. This communication helps bears live
peacefully together, relieves tension, and helps mother bears
keep track of their cubs. Cubs will cry for their mothers
when separated and scared. This communication includes soft
touching, aggressive posturing, salivating, yawning, vocalizing,
and other displays. Bears also spend a lot of time playing;
wrestling is common between cubs, particularly siblings.
Bears are easily startled or frightened
by new objects or situations. If given the opportunity, the
bear will later investigate whatever initially startled them,
and eventually get used to it. In circuses, however, the setting
is constantly changing, and bears are continually forced to
perform unnatural, dangerous, and difficult tasks. This in
itself can be extremely stressful for the bears; the physical
abuse then becomes another complicating factor.
These curious and intelligent creatures
can go insane from the torture of being confined, beaten,
and forced to perform.
Lions are very social-the females hunt
in packs, providing food for the male(s) and cubs. The entire
pride takes care of cubs. Females usually stay with their
pride for their entire lives, while males leave to hunt on
their own or find a pride at the age of two.
Lions have dexterous front paws with retractable
claws and soft paw pads in order not to make noise when hunting,
and use their dewclaws as toothpicks.
"King of Beasts" is an
inaccurate term, because lions will run from many things,
including elephants and rhinoceroses.
Lions communicate by signaling with their
tails, roaring (lions roar the most of any species), rubbing
each other in greeting, cubs play, and male lions spray or
scratch trees to mark their territory. They will sometimes
fight over food, but then will lick each other's wounds after
their meal. Lions have been known to share food with a nomadic
male. These are social, strategic, and majestic animals that
should not be forced into a life of misery.
Tiger populations in the wild are severely
in danger of extinction due to habitat loss and poaching.
The captive tiger population cannot be of help because it
is riddled with genetic disease and other ailments from poor
breeding, inbreeding, and mistreatment.
Young tigers start hunting when they are
one, but do not leave their mothers until they are three years
Tigers need at least 190 square miles of
habitat in order to roam and hunt. Circuses keep these beautiful
and rare animals contained and in extreme stress and pain.
Chimpanzees share over 98% of their DNA
structure with humans, making them our closest relatives.
Chimps have a social structure that is
very similar to ours, with long childhoods, close family attachments,
and complex communication that includes body language, rituals,
touching, and vocalizations. They crave contact with others,
and have been known to get depressed or go insane when isolated.
Even dolls and toys such as ropes and balls can cheer them
Our capacity to communicate with chimpanzees
is unparalleled. Many chimps have been taught hundreds of
words in American Sign Language (ASL), and researchers have
discovered that chimps have emotions and relationships with
each other that are very humanlike.
Patti, a chimp living in a sanctuary, has
been known to create artwork. A picture of her drawing of
a bird is available at http://www.censusproject.com/pattisbird.html.
Researchers watching young chimps play
watched one chimp break a toy. The researcher went into the
room, and asked both chimps, in ASL, who broke the toy. The
offending chimp signed, "He did it."
Clearly, these intelligent and emotional
creatures suffer tremendously from the isolation, constant
pain, stress, and fear that is circus life.