Another tragic death at Melbourne Zoo

Published 28 May 2015

Julia, a 33 year old gorilla tragically died following a savage beating by Otana, a male silverback gorilla last Friday. The 33 year old mother had been a captive at Melbourne Zoo for the past 20 years.

photo by News Limited

Julia was traumatically beaten while under the care of Melbourne zoo staff. Despite being aware of the violence which took place just before 9.30am, zoo staff did not get Julia to veterinary care until the following day.

Gorillas are wild animals who should not be locked up and put on display in confined areas. Confining animals for their entire lives in artificial enclosures inside zoos is stressful and causes them harm. Melbourne zoo has in the past kept one gorilla, Rigo, isolated for 16 years in an antiquated enclosure.

It is no surprise that animals in zoos often display stereotypic behaviours which include rocking, over-grooming, mutilation, neck twisting, chewing and bar biting, abnormal maternal behaviour and hyper-aggression.

The tragedy with Julia follows an incident 2 years ago in which baby elephant Sanook died after her head became entangled in a tyre used as a swing, choking her to death.

photo by Herald Sun

Melbourne Zoo is recognised as one of the best in the world, yet An internal memo leaked several years ago revealed terrible animal abuse. The memo detailed an incident where an elephant was stabbed multiple times by a zoo ‘trainer’ with a sharp metal spike. The leaked memo read: “After a time trying to control the elephant, Pat appeared to become extremely angry and used his marlin spike to stab at the elephant’s leg repeatedly in excess of a dozen times. The elephants seemed obviously distressed, standing back to back, vocalising and defecating.”

Prisoners for profit

The problem is that animals are commodities to zoos, to be bought and traded (like Julia’s son was, when he was taken from her and sent to another zoo) and disposed of when they no longer turn a profit. If zoos were concerned with conservation they would care for only endangered animals, but the truth is that only about one fifth of animals in zoos are threatened species.1

An incident last year at Copenhagen Zoo illustrates the point well. A healthy young giraffe Marius was killed by a bolt to the head in front of a crowd of people, including children. He was then dismembered and fed to other animals.

photo by Reuters

Despite several offers of homes, 18 month old Marius was killed because he did not have the right bloodline. This serves as a reminder that zoos are certainly not safe havens for animals, they are profit driven animal prisons.

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, of which Copenhagen Zoo is a member, issued a press release “fully supporting” the decisions and policy of the Copenhagen Zoo.

Think about this

We cannot glimpse the essential life of a caged animal, only the shadow of its former beauty. – Julia Allen Field

The saddest thing about zoos is the way they drive animals mad. Much of the behaviour we take for granted in zoo animals – repetitive padding up and down, head banging, obsessive paw swinging, or just plain moping – is actually psychotic, the sort of thing humans get driven to when they are kept in solitary confinement. – Bill Travers, Star of “Born Free” and co-founder of Zoo Check

Click to read 4 comments


  • 28 May 2015
    Andrea Simeon

    Disgusting it’s all for profit not the welfare of the animals

  • 2 June 2015
    Paula Bourgeois

    We are all animals and the more free we are the happier we are….think about it

  • 5 June 2015
    Cheryal Johnson

    Why is there so much animal abuse in Australia. First there exposed about the fat cats with the greyhound racing, so after they made there money on these dogs they just murdered them. I have a friend over there and I cannot believe the abuse there. Will people be nest? Please make stricter laws and stop the abuse!

  • 9 November 2015

    @Cheryal Johnson
    Laws don’t work, because animals are property. We’ve had animal welfare laws for decades, and the abuse is worse than ever.
    The only way to avoid animal abuse, is to completely stop using animals (going to zoos, circuses, buying leather, wool, fur, meat, dairy, eggs, etc). As long as people go to the zoo, and pay for the “entertainment” of seeing animals behind bars and in cages, animals will have a property status. That means they are treated as humane as the owner thinks is right. They will have as much value as their “owners” – zoo keepers in this case – assign to them.
    If you want to not cause unnecessary pain, suffering, and death on animals, going vegan is your only rational response. Please go vegan, and advocate for other people to do the same!

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