Haunting Animal Photos Show What Life Can Be Like In Captivity

Jo-Anne McArthur

Update: I have had a large number of comments pointing out the very good point that no, not all zoos are bad, and many carry out some incredible conservation work. That is of course extremely valid, so the article below has been edited to reflect this.

A photojournalist has captured some stuning views of animals inside zoos, showing what life can be like in captivity.

Jo-Anne McArthur captured these photos over the course of a decade for her new book, Captive, released today. The book explores the interaction between humans and animals.

She visited zoos and aquaria in more than 20 countries to capture the photos. In total, the book contains 148 imagess, along with reflections and personal accounts from McArthur.

“Increasingly, zoos and aquaria are being called upon to undertake both ideological and physical changes to their institutions,” she said in a statement. “At the center of the current debates regarding the ethics of captivity are the animals and our moral obligations towards these ‘others’.

“Captive looks at the animals we so often fail to truly see, and is my contribution to the ever-growing conversation about keeping these individuals on display.”

McAurthur has also launched a website called A Year of Captivity, which every day shares an image and story about captive animals around the world. From September 7 to 10 this year, some of her images will be exhibited at Toronto’s Harbourfront Center.

Not all zoos are bad, though, and these images certainly should not completely reflect this. Many improve the lives of animals, carrying out incredible conservation work, and helping recover threatened species.

Some certainly have questionable methods, but a bit of research beforehand can help you make an informed decision.

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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur
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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur

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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur
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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur
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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur
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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur
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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur
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Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur

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