CONTENTS Animals in Captivity pg 2
Volume 11| Fall 2019
COVER ILLUSTRATION BY FATIMAH KHAN
Overbreeding pg 3
Research Roundup pg 4
Animals in Captivity:
PRISON OR PROTECTION?
WRITTEN BY ELEANOR WANG | SQ STAFF WRITER
ILLUSTRATION BY SHAE GALLI
C San Diego is right by one of the biggest zoos in the country: the San Diego Zoo. It’s an amazing place for us to gaze in wonder at animals from around the world, and it is also a leader in animal conservation efforts. But another popular tourist destination in San Diego, SeaWorld, was exposed for the cruelty behind keeping orcas in captivity by the documentary Blackfish. The controversy in films such as Blackfish raises the question: do zoos and aquariums do more harm than good to animals? The answer to this question is not simple. San Diego Zoo’s website states its mission as “saving species around the world.” They breed and care for endangered species, conduct research on animal behavior and health, and share these findings to assist other conservation efforts. By fostering a “human-animal connection” through zoo exhibits, their stated goal is to “spark the desire to protect and save species.” While these goals are based in altruistic sentiments toward animal conservation, there are many more nuances behind the animals-in-captivity debate. Important details include the source of animals, proper animal treatment, efficacy of conservation efforts, and protection of animal rights. Historically, zoo animals were captured directly from the wild; however, most animals today come from captive breeding programs. These programs reduce the need for zoos and aquariums to source animals directly from the wild, protecting wild animals. Nonetheless, there are still arguments for and against captive breeding programs. These animals are bred for generations under captivity and therefore have never been exposed to their natural habitat. When it comes to conservation, it becomes questionable whether animals bred in captivity can safely be released into the wild, although the goal of captive breeding is not always the same as rescue and rehabilitation. It can protect endangered animals from ex-
tinction, but can also inform important research efforts and provide animals for public education, as stated by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). Zoos and aquariums must also be held accountable for proper animal care and treatment. SeaWorld’s website states that funds go towards “wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts, habitat protections, and ocean health initiatives.” Even so, Blackfish happened. A viewer’s initial instinct may be to wonder if SeaWorld merely operates under the guise of conservation and rescue efforts, but again, this controversy is much more nuanced. In a statement issued to CNN in 2013, SeaWorld responded to Blackfish by describing the film as inaccurate and misleading. Content presented in Blackfish may not be entirely true—popular media likes a good story. It is more likely that the truth lies somewhere between two extremes. The same applies to broader arguments about animals in captivity and conservation efforts. There are many important factors to acknowledge, and rather than forcing issues into good versus bad, the priority should be what’s best for animals.
Editor-in-Chief: Emma Huie Executive Editor: Arya Natarajan Editor-at-Large: Sharada Saraf Head Production Editor: Zarina Gallardo UTS Production Editor: Julia Cheng
Not all zoos are “good zoos”, and not all conservation efforts are effective or successful. To protect animal rights, a centralized system could be implemented for ensuring that zoos and aquariums are truly doing their best for animals in their care rather than simply prioritizing profit. An example of such an organization is WAZA. Although WAZA isn’t necessarily all-encompassing, its goal is to support zoos, aquariums, and other similar organizations in animal welfare, environmental education, and conservation. WAZA zoos are held to stricter standards of animal care and welfare. The San Diego Zoo is a WAZA member, as is SeaWorld Orlando. Despite the mishaps in Blackfish, SeaWorld still participates in important rescue and rehabilitation work. They’ve rescued over 35,000 animals, including sea lions, manatees, and other animals living both inside and outside the ocean. With conservation efforts, it is important to acknowledge our limited knowledge about the animal world. Ensuring that these efforts actually benefit the animals means following up with animals released into the wild and doing proper research on animal health and welfare. There’s always something that can be said in favor of or against some aspect of zoos or aquariums. The public can help by staying informed about conservation efforts and science, holding institutions accountable for their actions, advocating for transparency, and as a whole, pushing for better science and animal care.
Online Editors: Shreya Shriram, Daniel Lusk Research Editors: Xaver Audhya, Gayathri Kalla, Alejandro Dauguet SQ Features Editor: Nikhil Jampana UTS Features Editor: Andra Thomas
Staff Writers: Eleanor Wang, Vickie Kuo Staff Illustrators: Fatimah Khan, Shae Galli, Corly Huang Tech Editors: Salma Sheriff, Lynn Nguyen, Juliana Fox
The Ruff Situation WITH OVERBREEDING
WRITTEN BY VICKIE KUO | UTS STAFF WRITER ILLUSTRATION BY CORLY HUANG
ith bared fangs and sharp eyes, the grey wolf cunningly stalks its prey; its powerful legs are posed and ready to lunge. It’s a National Geographic star, but it’s also the close ancestor of man’s best friend: the household dog. Starkly different creatures living such different lives— it’s hard to imagine that Fido descended from such a voracious, feral creature. What led to this drastic evolution? The answer is simple and ancient: artificial selection, the intentional breeding of organisms. However, as society’s purpose for breeding gradually shifted from domestication to aestheticization, overbreeding dogs became increasingly popular and intense since the 1900s, endangering and ultimately shortening the dogs’ quality of life. Overbreeding is the excessive mating of two organisms from the same breed, which often leads to inbreeding—breeding with close relatives like parents or siblings. The process is encouraged by the demand for purebred dogs and dog show winners, despite the fact that overbreeding brings an onslaught of genetic defects and subsequent health problems in offspring. Genetically, these problems are more likely to occur because of homozygosity, the inheritance of identical alleles. Alleles are varying forms of the same gene, and homozygosity occurs when two copies of the same gene variant allele are received, one from each parent for a total of two. Since “unfavorable” or disadvantageous traits are often recessive, breeding dogs with similar genetic makeup increases the chance of having puppies with
recessive genetic defects, because usually an organism only shows the recessive trait when they are homozygous. Whereas, if the harmful trait were dominant, the individual would usually die before it could mate and therefore not be able to pass on its genes. According to a 2014 feature on purebred dogs in Scientific American, dog owners and veterinarians report a range of genetic problems due to overbreeding, including difficulty breathing, spinal problems, and cardiovascular issues. Essentially, inbreeding decreases the amount of variation in the available gene pool, so the offspring are more likely to inherit genetic defects. If overbreeding causes man’s best friend to be riddled with possibly debilitating genetic diseases, why is it a common practice? According to the Smithsonian, the roots of overbreeding extend to the Victorian Era, when purebred dogs and competitive dog breeding were popular fads. Even the word “purebred” has a positive, proudful connotation. Today, kennel clubs’ rules and standards reward the aesthetic of exaggerated features rather than good health; this encourages the overbreeding of purebreds, especially those with extreme features. These competitions reveal a larger societal obsession with these unproportional, cartoonish features. Extreme genetic deformities in fur, height, face, and eyes are attractive to buyers, because these characteristics, like the little head of a pug, are considered “cute.” Often times, there is also an implicit association with eliteness. Some own purebred dogs
as a status symbol, because purebreds tend to be more expensive and less accessible. In one of the most overbred dog species, the English Bulldog, their squashed nose prevents proper breathing, while their overall body structure causes them to struggle with mating and even walking. In fact, English Bulldogs are bred to have such large heads that they cannot give birth without C-sections. In one study by the U.K. Kennel Club and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, the reported average lifespan of an English Bulldog is only about eight years and “only about eight percent [are] reported to have died of old age.” A lifetime of treatment and surgeries are available to alleviate some of these problems, but even the treatments result in undesired side effects. In addition, the expression of genetic diseases worsens with continuous overbreeding. Adverse transgenerational effects, like inbreeding depression, reduce overall biological fitness. Scientists can only predict the extent of the effects of overbreeding if the process continues at this rate. Nevertheless, just as the process of overbreeding is human-made, the solutions are within human reach. The possibility of genetic disease in a dog can be reduced by crossbreeding and attempting to offset some of the more exaggerated, problematic features. Potential pet owners can be more conscientious of where they get their pets, preferably through shelters or adoption centers, and refuse to support unethical breeding practices. Doing research and staying informed before getting a dog is important, because an increase in demand for purebred dogs only encourages overbreeding. In addition, movements such as “Love is Blind” advocate for kennel clubs to change their judging standards and rules to encourage health more than exaggerated features. Perhaps, with this revolutionary change in the kennel clubs’ competition standards, society’s views will shift once again and start to prioritize dogs’ health rather than their cuteness.
Research Roundup CURATED BY SQ RESEARCH EDITORS AND EXECUTIVE STAFF
MUTT, M.D. Our pets are always there for us—whether we’re happy, sad, or somewhere in between. In fact, a new study from Florida State University has found that companionship with our pets can protect us from depression and loneliness after devastating social losses, like divorce or the passing of a loved one. Title: Psychological Health Benefits of Companion Animals Following a Social Loss Authors: Dawn C. Carr, Miles G. Taylor, Nancy R. Gee, Natalie Sachs-Ericsson Journal: The Gerontologist
SUPERBUGS: AN INTER-SPECIES ISSUE The emergence of highly drug-resistant bacteria has become a chief concern of global and public health practitioners in recent years. It turns out that this issue is not a solely human one. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University have found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in bottlenose dolphins, suggesting that the bacteria may have been transferred to them by either humans or other animals. Title: Temporal Changes in Antibiotic Resistance Among Bacteria Isolated from Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida Authors: Adam M. Schaefer, Gregory D. Bossart, Tyler Harrington, Patricia A. Fair, Peter J. McCarthy, John S. Reif Journal: Aquatic Mammals
PUPPY LOVE: EYE LOVE YOU We’ve known for some time now that our friendly, lovable dogs at home are direct descendants of wolves. Of the many differences between the two, one of the most interesting of them may be the facial muscles that domesticated dogs have evolved. A new study looked into the famous “puppy dog eyes,” and their data suggests that the evolution of these facial muscles may allow dogs to communicate with humans more effectively via facial expressions. Title: Evolution of facial muscle anatomy in dogs Authors: Julianne Kaminski, Bridget M. Waller, Rui Diogo, Adam Hartstone-Rose, Anne M. Burrows Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
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