Animals have been in zoos for hundreds of years. Sometimes the animals are happy and relaxing. Other times, the animals are seen pacing. There are worn out paths around the perimeter of the enclosure. Many think this is normal behavior. But in actuality, it isn’t. Outside of captive situations, animals don’t pace back and forth. This strange behavior is studied under the classification of Animal Psychopathology. It is more simply known as Zoochosis. It is basically captive animals losing their minds. According to an article from PETA, animals suffering from zoochosis “…often rock, sway, or pace endlessly, and some even resort to hurting themselves by chewing on their own fingers or limbs or pulling out their fur or feathers.” It can be so bad, that some even give their animals antidepressants so that the public is blind to what is really happening. There is also a really good article from the Dodo featuring GIFs of animals exhibiting the behaviors most commonly associated with zoochosis.
I do want to pause for a second here to explain something. Many call PETA a bad organization. I don’t agree with everything they say and do, but I do admit that they do good work for wild animals and I have immense respect for that.
Ok, back to zoochosis. I myself have gone to zoos and seen evidence of zoochosis in the animals. Some of the more common animals to experience it are Bears and Big Cats, but almost any can suffer from it. On a recent trip to a zoo, I took photos and videos of a bear pacing back and forth in one worn out spot at the edge of its enclosure. I felt bad for it and attempted to talk to it soothingly to calm it down. The zoo wasn’t busy that day due to rain so I wasn’t worried about people thinking I was crazy.
I want to clear something up though. Zoochosis doesn’t just affect animals in zoos. It affects wild animals in all facilities, including accredited sanctuaries. It is impossible to stop without medicating the animals and that isn’t good to do. At sanctuaries, that wouldn’t even happen because they aim to give them natural lives so they only give them medications they have to.
I found a very good documentary titled ‘Zoochosis.” It explains everything better than I ever could. It is only 27 minutes long, but is very powerful!
So what can we do to ease their zoochosis? Make the enclosures more natural. Improve their quality of life. That is the key.
For the Captive Wild Animals,
International Animal Welfare