The killing of Eko the Tiger
The death of an endangered tiger at the Naples Zoo again shows the myth of "zoo conservation"
Multiple news outlets are reporting on the killing of Eko the Tiger today at a zoo in Naples, Florida. Eko, an 8-year-old Malayan tiger, is a member of a species that has been classified as critically endangered. Only 200 members of his species remain alive in the wild.
And his shooting was triggered by human error. A cleaner at the zoo, who was apparently enamored of Eko, stuck his arm through the fence in a restricted area, perhaps to pet or feed the tiger. When the tiger took hold, and police arrived shortly thereafter, they shot and killed Eko when they could find no other way to convince him to release the man’s arm.
What’s important to note about all of this is the Naples Zoo’s supposed commitment to “caring for wildlife.” The zoo, like many, talks a very good game, in terms of its commitment to animals and the conservation of species. And yet time and again, when animals are held in captivity, we see tragedy strike. Indeed, this is not the first instance of tragedy involving tigers at zoos.
Perhaps the most famous incident occurred in Beijing in 2016, when a woman was dragged away from her car, which she had left in an apparent dispute with her husband.
But there have been other incidents much closer to home, including the killing of a person at the San Francisco Zoo by an escaped tiger in 2007. As with Eko, the tiger was shot and killed by police on scene.
In all of these cases, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something deeply troubling about holding animals in captivity. And despite the rhetoric, the actions and consequences of modern zoos show far more similarity between what they are doing and what, for example, poachers are doing:
Exploiting animals, with sometimes deadly consequences.
Much more could be said about this. But for now, let’s just mourn Eko and hope for a world where no animal has to live in a cage (or be shot and killed for their attempts to resist).