I want a tiger cub too!

This week the story of Panjo the missing tiger caught the attention of animal lovers everywhere. When he was found after a two-day search, there was a collective sigh of relief.  

However, Panjo’s AWOL adventure has also renewed the focus on the plight of wild animals, and the issue of whether it's ethical to keep them in captivity.

It's dismal seeing an animal that's naturally designed to roam free over a large area kept cooped up in a small space. It's also dangerous: there are several recorded cases of such "pets" turning on people. See, for example: Tiger mauling stops Vegas show; TV chimp goes crazy, shot dead.

On the other hand, creatures "in the wild" are no longer really free: animals in the last remaining natural areas are in terrible peril, even those in guarded nature reserves. Numbers of many of the iconic big mammals are dwindling rapidly. For example: in the last decade alone, tiger numbers in the wild have fallen by almost half.

According to the WWF only 3 200 are left, spread thinly over 13 countries. Thus there are convincing arguments for keeping at least some wild animals in captivity in the 21st century - simply to offer them better protection than their threatened natural habitats can.

What are your feelings on this? Join the debate below.

- (Birgit Ottermann and Olivia Rose-Innes, Health24, July 2010)

Read more:

Wild calling: wildlife rehabilitators treat animal casualties on the frontline of our war against the environment



Wildlife trade spurs disease



12 extremely dangerous animals



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