Natural history discussing club

21.01.2017. Unit 1. Plastic ocean. Can our oceans be saved from environmental disaster?[][]

Adapted from CNN article by Kieron Monks, 02/09/ 2016

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is very famous. This center of marine waste, created by the spiral currents of the North Pacific Gyre, is described as a floating trash island as big as Russia. But when filmmaker Jo Ruxton visited the location, she found clear blue water, and a big problem. The water looked clear, says Ruxton. But our nets were completely full of plastic pieces.
The pieces were small enough to mix with plankton. Researchers found 750,000 microplastic pieces per square kilometer in the Garbage Patch. This is a lot worse than a huge island of trash which can be physically removed, says Ruxton. Because you can't remove all the tiny pieces. She visited the place when she was producing the film A Plastic Ocean, which documents the impact of fifty years of plastic pollution.

About eight million tons of plastic enter the marine environment each year, and the number is going to increase in the future. There will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Plastic is a very strong material, with a potential lifespan of centuries. It does not biodegrade, but photodegrades under sunlight, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, which attract toxins and heavy metals. Plastic is collected together in the sea currents, but it is also found in Arctic ice, on far away islands, and popular tourist places.
Ruxton's team visited many locations, and plastic was everywhere. They found it at the Mediterranean Sea bed, the shores of Bermuda, and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. We found many dead chicks, Ruxton says about Howe Island. We opened 10 of their stomachs which were full of plastic... These birds died of hunger, even though their stomachs were full.
But the scariest discovery was on the South Pacific island of Tuvalu. It was once a clean beautiful place, but there was no infrastructure to remove the plastic from the island, and now it is a serious danger for the local people. At first, people were just throwing plastic outside, says Ruxton. It was everywhere, so they tried to burn it. Because of it, there was always black smoke. Gases that come out when you burn plastic include two cancerogenic ones dioxins and furans. In a group of 30 islanders who were in the film, five had cancer and two of them died, Ruxton says.
The other half of the team also studies the effects of eating sea plastic. Research shows that a quarter of fish at markets in California and Indonesia contain plastic. Tests show that eating it can cause tumors in lab animals.
Ruxton is glad to see the increased focus on the problem, and is sure that greater public knowledge can have a big impact. If people understand how easy it is to make changes, and if they understand the consequences, they want to change, she says. However, time is short. If the culture does not change soon, more communities will have problems with pollution.

cancer increase
consequences lifespan
contain net
create pollution
current remove
disaster seabed
discovery shore
environment stomach
impact tumor

( , )

1. Match these words and names to their definitions:
1. Jo Ruxton A. A baby bird
2. North Pacific Gyre B. The woman who studied plastic pollution of the ocean to make a film called A Plastic Ocean.
3. biodegrade C. Small (<1mm) pieces of plastic in the environment
4. microplastic D. to be destroyed by different organisms
5. cancerogenic E. to be destroyed by sunlight .
6. chick F. able to cause cancer.
7. photodegrade G. A spiral system of currents in the north of the Pacific ocean.

Key:1B, 2G, 3D, 4C, 5F, 6A, 7E

2. Find in the text:

  • Two words that mean garbage (paragraph 1); waste, trash

  • Words that mean very big and very small (paragraph 2); huge, tiny

  • Two ways to speak about the future (paragraph 3);will be, to be going to

  • Two ways people of Tuvalu tried to get rid of plastic (paragraph 5); they threw plastic outside, they tried to burn it

  • Words that means 1/4; and 1/2; (paragraph 6); quarter, half

3. Are these sentences true or false?

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of trash. TRUE

  • Plastic is very difficult to remove from the ocean because it's mostly in tiny pieces. TRUE

  • Plastic photodegrades very slowly and completely disappears only after a century. FALSE

  • Animals dont like plastic and never eat it. FALSE

  • Burning plastic is a good way to destroy it. FALSE

  • Plastic is in seafood we eat and it can be dangerous for our health. FALSE

4. Fill the gaps with these words: but, so, because, if, however, although.

  • The water looked clear,___but__ our nets were completely full of plastic pieces.

  • These birds died of hunger, although their stomachs were full.

  • Plastic was everywhere, __so____ people of Tuvalu island tried to burn it.

  • We can change the situation. _However, time is short.

  • ___If___ the culture does not change soon, more communities will have problems with pollution.

  • Plastic is very difficult to remove from the ocean_because it's mostly in tiny pieces.

To the next discussion:

Find out which organizations in Saint Petersburg accept recyclable trash and send it to recycling factories.

28.01.2017.Unit 2. Recycling in Russia.[][]

There are some misconceptions about recycling in Russia. Its not as widespread and popular as in Europe. Some people even believe that there are no organizations that accept trash for recycling! A quick internet search proves them wrong, but it is true that before you start recycling, you have to learn how to do it.

People sometimes say that trash stinks or takes a lot of space They also think its impossible to get a profit out of the small amount of trash the city population can recycle. These people dont know the basic rules of recycling, though!
Food waste really is stinky but its also biodegradable. You dont have to recycle it. And you cant bring dirty packaging to a recycling center! They wont accept it. You must wash it, otherwise the material gets contaminated and its quality becomes lower. Washed packaging is as hygienic as any other thing in your house and will never rot or go bad.
Its also very important to get your recyclable materials as compact as possible to lower the cost of transporting it. Squeeze the air out of plastic bottles! Crash tin cans! Flatten carton boxes! If you do it right, your monthly recyclable materials will easily fit under your kitchen sink.

You also must sort your trash correctly. There are five main categories: metal, glass, paper, plastic and tetra-pak. The last one, usually used for milk and juice cartons, is a special case. It consists of several layers made of paper, aluminium and plastic and has to be recycled separately.
Many big corporations recycle their waste from car factories to big business centers. For them, reused materials are an important part of their budget. Individual households cant gather enough trash to make recycling profitable, but if the whole city does it, not only it will cover the costs of cleaning, sorting, transporting and recycling trash, it will probably generate some extra money!

However, you shouldnt waste your time obsessively sort every tiny piece of trash. Not everything can be recycled and turned into secondary material resources. For example, thermal paper used to print receipts and faxes has low cellulose content and contains chemicals that can contaminate recycled paper. Any paper mixed with other substances mustnt be recycled. It includes cardboard cylinders in the center of toilet paper rolls (they contain a lot of glue), photo paper, waterproof laminated paper (used in paper cups), wallpaper (glue again!) and many others. Although egg cartons look like paper, they are usually made of cellulose mass, which is non-recyclable, too.
The same principle works with glass and metal. Glass used in lamps, windows, plates and cups have various additives and has to be thrown out, not recycled. Aerosol bottles cant be recycled for the same reason.

Its even more difficult with plastic! There are so many types of it that its easy to get overwhelmed. Dont give up, though! First, soft plastic (like plastic bags and wrappers) must be separated from hard plastic (bottles and boxes). Then you must sort plastic according to its type. Take a look at the packaging: there usually is a triangle symbol with a number inside. This is the type of plastic it is made of. Theres a list of the plastics that are currently recycled in Saint Petersburg:

  • 1 / / PET / PETE / PET-R (Polyethylene terephthalate, used in transparent bottles and boxes for fruits)
  • 2 / / HDPE / PE HD / PE(High-density polyethylene, used in bottles and canisters for detergents, shampoos, etc.)
  • 4 / / LDPE / PE LD (Low-density polyethylene, used in bottles and canisters for detergents, shampoos, etc.)
  • 5/ / PP (Polypropylene, used in toys, lids, bottle caps, buckets, wrappers, etc.)
  • 6 / / PS (Geofoam, used in anti-shock packaging for big electronic devices and furniture)

Anything that doesnt have a marking or is made of mixed types of plastic, goes in the trash.

a special case
according to
consists of
give up
household ,
though ,

( , )

1. Match the paragraphs with headings:
A. Plastic problems
B. Some trash is just trash
C. The basics of sorting
D. Myths about recycling

Key: 1D, 2C, 3B, 4A

2. Fill the gaps with should, shouldnt, must, have to, mustnt or dont have to:
  • You look pale. I think you ___should____ see the doctor.
  • Its very slippery outside. ___shouldnt_ run there.
  • You __mustnt____ throw litter on the pavement.
  • You __mustnt____ make noise in the library.
  • You __should_____ brush your teeth before going to bed.
  • You __must_______ fasten your seatbelt in a car.
  • Children __shouldnt__ watch TV a lot.
  • You __mustnt____ light a fire in the forest.
  • You __should_____ be friendly to other people.
  • You __mustnt____ leave your kids unattended at the airport.
  • You __mustnt____ be late for the interview.
  • You dont have to eat the soup if you dont want to.
  • You __shouldnt__ shout at us.
  • We ___have to___ run. We have plenty of time before the concert.
  • You dont have to pay now. You can pay online later.
  • This museum is free. We __shouldnt__ buy any tickets.
  • This is my dads pen. You __mustnt____ lose it.
  • You __shouldnt__ make much noise. Little Tim is sleeping.
  • Its Sunday tomorrow. I dont have to get up early

  • 3. Reread paragraphs 1 and 2. What are three steps to prepare your trash for recycling?
    1. Clean it
    2. Sort it
    3. Compact it.

    4. Fill the missing information in the table. Use examples from the text and add at least tho more examples to every recyclable column.
    glass glass metal metal paper paper plastic plastic
    rec. non-rec. rec. non-rec. rec. non-rec. rec. non-rec.
    jars cups soda cans aerosol cans newspaper baking paper soda bottles mixed types plastic
    bottles lamps jar lid package soda bottle caps no-labeled plastic

    Takeback message

    Recycling in Saint Petersburg

    • Find a place near your house to bring your recyclable trash to on this map!

    • Donate your old clothes here!

    • If your clothes are too old to wear, recycle them here.

    04.02.2017.Unit 3. The Cruel Cost of Cute.[][]

    Cute animals are easy to sell. Whether it is a photo, a video, or even the animals themselves, people seem to be powerless to resist the allure of cute. This fact has been capitalised on by many newspapers, magazines and websites who know that cute animals are a sure way to grab their audiences attention.
    We often find it amusing when animals appear to be engaging in anthropomorphic behaviours. However, these behaviours are often signs of an animal suffering distress. Take for example, the chimpanzee: When a chimpanzee is nervous, it may display an expression that looks incredibly like a human smile. In this case, a smiling chimp is anything but happy.
    Weve all seen photos of frogs rodeo-riding a large beetle, or lizards playing air guitar on a leaf, and while these photos can be very amusing, we must understand that these animals do not engage in these behaviours naturally; These photos have been staged, and have almost certainly resulted in the animal being distressed, injured, or worse.
    For example, take the recent viral photo of a frog riding a beetle. The images suggest the frog is riding the beetle rodeo style, and the frogs wide mouth suggests it may even be shouting Yee-haw like a cowboy. However, the truth is, the image has almost certainly been staged and amphibian experts suggested that the widely open mouth pose displayed by the frog is only ever seen in times of extreme distress.
    The story behind these photos is almost always the same; the photographer claims to have stumbled upon these scenes in a natural setting and quickly snapped a photo. One Indonesian photographer had the good fortune of stumbling across a red-eyed tree frog engaging in kung fu and flipping the bird to the photographer. However, this story doesnt hold any weight. First, this species is incapable of naturally assuming these poses (they simply dont have the necessary musculature). Second, theres the fact that this species is not native to Indonesia and the photographer couldnt possibly have found it in the wild. This animal probably was bought in a pet-shop and posed using fishing line, which was later erased with image manipulation software.
    Another way cuteness can inflict cruelty is via photography farms and roadside zoos. These farms breed exotic animals such as wolves, bears and lions because the cute cubs are highly valued by commercial photographers. They dont provide the best care, resulting in very thin or very fat animals. Michelle Smith is a volunteer with The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, and she described some of the issues with these farms for us:

    The type of photo farm, like where our wolf named Princess is rescued from, is where animals are raised for the sole purpose to have photographers come in and take pictures of them to sell for profit, or to use on cheap calendars and other gift items. Veterinary care and quality of life are subpar in these places. The animals are often kept in small cage until they are ordered for photos, when they are let into the photography area. For example, if someone wants to take pictures of wolf puppies by a den, the animals are taken out of the crate they usually live in and dropped in a hole that has been dug out to look like a den, to stage the photo shoot.

    These organisations may also profit by allowing the public to interact with the cubs. However, as the cubs mature, they lose their cute factor and also cannot safely interact with the public anymore. This quickly creates too many animals which the farms need to get rid of. If the animals are lucky, they are adopted by wildlife organisations, but they are also often sold to the canned hunting industry. Canned hunting involves paying to hunt animals that are hand reared and habituated to humans, thus making a kill guaranteed.
    Its true that you cant personally win a fight against an industry but your attention is a currency, and how you spend it matters. If you recognize and boycott content that is produced via animal abuse and look for reputable sources, then you help tackle the problem.

    Adapted from an article by Rob O Sullivan via The Herpetological Society of Ireland, 01/04/2015

    allure ,
    assume a pose
    capitalise on
    distress ,
    doesnt hold any weight
    engage in
    fishing line
    flip the bird
    grab someones attention -
    habituated to
    hand reared
    inflict ,
    native ,
    reputable ,
    snap a photo
    staged photo
    stumble upon
    suffer ,
    tackle the problem

    ( , )

    1. Which sentence describes the text best?
    a. Taking photos of animals is cruel and dangerous and must stop. WRONG
    b. Its easy to sell cute photos of animals. WRONG
    c. When you see a cute photo, think how it was made. CORRECT

    2. Complete the text with linking words from the list:
    first, for example, however, second, thus, whether, while

    3. What problem wasnt mentioned in the text?
    a. Staging photos and hurting animals in process. WRONG
    b. People mistake signs of stress in animals for cute behaviour. WRONG
    c. People buying exotic animals only because they are cute. CORRECT
    d. Breeding animals specifically to take photos of them. WRONG

    4. Try to explain what these expressions from the text mean:
    anthropomorphic behavior when the animal behave like a humans
    viral photo some fast spreading via Internet photos
    staged photo when you prepare objects before taking a photos of it
    photography farms places, where animals breeds and raises for taking their photos
    roadside zoos some bad quality zoos, that have a poor assortment of animals
    canned hunting the hunting for a partially domesticated animals

    5. Text describes situations where cute animal photos were made using abusive methods. Using the examples in the text, try to think of three warning signs that can help you recognize that the photo is not actually cute.

    25.02.2017.Unit 4.Beyond the Bars: Ethical Enclosures for Captive Animals

    Sharks view some captive humans. This is an example of an inadequate enclosure design.

    So, lets say youve got this animal, and youve got to take care of it.
    In the vast majority of cases, taking care of the animal includes enclosing it in some way, whether it be in a tiny box or a giant fenced park. In general, in order to care for an animals needs, you need to have access to that animal, and to be able to control its environment. For example: oxygen, food, and water are three things you probably want any animal under your care to have. Predators and pathogens are two things you might want to keep out.
    But of course, these are the most basic needs an animal has, and what Im describing is the minimum of animal care. In other words, animals can live with their basic needs provided but not thrive. The difference between the two is a rather new discovery in animal care, and even in human care goes.
    In any case, enclosure design is one of the most important animal welfare concerns, and current captive animals are kept much differently than they used to be.

    Is There Value to Captivity?
    Speaking of caring for animals, I keep four axolotls as pets. If you dont know what an axolotl is, its basically a large weird salamander.

    Weird salamanders doing weird salamander things.

    Their habitat in the wild is restricted to a single set of canals in Mexico, and their population is quickly decreasing. By now, they may even be entirely extinct in the wild. Yet they have a huge captive population. Axolotls are not difficult to breed, feed, or sensitive to certain water parameters they are strong creatures who will eat anything that fits in their mouths and make salamander love willy-nilly. The problem is that in the wild, they have nowhere left to go.
    As I mentioned, the axolotls habitat is a single set of canals in Mexico. The canals used to be a vast lake, Lake Xochimilco, which was part of a system of five lakes: the other four have vanished. The cause is, as expected, human activity. Pre-Hispanic cultures farmed crops by piling dirt and plants in the shallow lakes. Mexico City is, in fact, built on these former lakes. Much of the water was drained away in modern times to prevent flooding. So the axolotl is left with a few canals that run through one of the most densely populated urban centers of the world.

    Pictured: what the axolotl has left

    I bring up the axolotls wild habitat because it presents an interesting challenge to what the word wild really means. Is an axolotl in a manmade canal in the center of the city still really wild? If so, are the polluted waters really the best place for axolotls to be- if there are even any left?
    Even if the axolotl is extinct in the wild, it is in no danger of actually going extinct. There is a huge captive population of axolotls, split between laboratory animals, pets like mine, and a few in zoos as well. As I said, they are not difficult to keep or breed. And I want to acknowledge the efforts of groups such as the Durell Institute and the Mexican government to conserve and protect the wild axolotl.
    But for the most part, there is no longer really such a thing as a wild axolotl the species is maintained by artificial human life support. If we stopped, there would be none left. And the axolotl isnt the only animal with this issue. People say that there are roughly 7,000 tigers in captivity and 2,000 in the wild even though about 4,000 of the captive tigers live in Chinese breeding farms for use in traditional medicine.

    Factory farming of tigers in row after row of enclosures at the Guilin Xiongsen Bear & Tiger Farm, South West China

    Like the axolotl, the tiger has no trouble breeding in captivity: the problem is that it has fewer and fewer wild places to go. It is also important to understand that the majority of tiger and axolotl populations are useless for reintroduction to the wild. Why? Bad breeding. The pet trades love for rare color morphs and no understanding of things like subspecies and natural behavior has led to highly inbred captive individuals that dont have the survival skills to live without human assistance. Albino axolotls and white tigers would not and will never survive in the wild, yet people love to see them and so, here they are.

    This white tiger, while appealing to look at, is not capable of surviving without human help

    Accredited zoos are perhaps the only groups heavily interested in maintaining rewild-able genes in their captive populations, and even then, they are still confronted with the issue of not having enough habitat to put their animals back into. Further complicating this is the difficulty of introducing a captive population back into the wild, especially in a habitat where the species has been absent for some time. Successful reintroduction attempts, such as the black-footed ferret (which was bred from 18 remaining captive individuals) are still relatively rare.
    Of course there are permanently captive species that are very important for us: cows, chickens, dogs and other domesticated animals. There is certainly value in captive animals for humans but not for their wild relatives. In many cases, having huge captive populations of an animal can actually hurt conservation efforts. For example, domestic cattle took the grazing territories from the wild animals. In many other cases, making an animal popular as a pet promotes the black market trade of it. Have you seen the cute video of a slow loris being tickled? So have several million others, and many of them want to buy one.
    At this point, you may be thinking that captivity is terrible for all wild species. But that isnt true. If you look at the comments on any pet slow loris video now you will see many comments angrily telling the owner that its animal cruelty. The popularity of that original video was what started a large-scale effort by scientists and animal lovers to educate the public about the problems behind keeping these primates as pets. With education comes more funding towards combating the black market trade, which is a big reason of the wild species decline.
    The slow loris species probably were hurt because of this video, but for other species, it may have helped by making people naturally more suspicious of cute exotic pet videos.

    As cute as it seems, this slow loris is actually exhibiting a defensive posture

    Indeed, education itself is one of the largest values of keeping captive animals. And enclosure design has much to do with this. The more people see animals in naturalized rather than humanized environments, the more likely they are to express interest in the animals conservation. Likewise, though successful wild reintroductions are rare, they are slowly becoming possible as conservation science advances, making captive populations function as better genetic repositories. Indeed, with no threats such as disease or parasites healthy captive populations may be a very good thing for wild species.

    Chytrid fungus may eventually be responsible for the extinction of many amphibian species. If we can preserve some members of these species in captivity until we find a cure, shouldnt we?

    Of course, there also is a very large question of the welfare of the individual animals in captivity. From the perspective of the individual animal rather than the species, the questions become very different. Rather than just general survival, we begin to consider an animals psychological well-being. More and more, modern zoos and pet owners are changing the question from Is it healthy? to Is it thriving and experiencing pleasure?

    Good Intentions, Bad Care: A History
    Im going to discuss my axolotls again, and I swear its not just because I like talking about them.
    I acquired my first two weird salamanders while taking a college course on developmental biology. The axolotl is an important laboratory organism because it can regenerate nearly any part of its body via the conversion of adult cells back into a form of stem cells. For a vertebrate, this ability is a Big Deal.
    In any case, during the course we were given the opportunity to see the axolotls regeneration skills for ourselves, and afterwards I took pity on my two test subjects and adopted them. (Initially, I thought they were both female, which is why I now have four instead of two.)
    The lab kept their salamanders in highly scientific tupperware containers, with just about enough room to turn around for each axolotl. They were not kept in plain water, but rather a specialized mixture of salts added to water called Holtfreters solution. This solution was changed every other day.

    Hi-tech lab conditions

    Naturally, to me, this seemed terrible: at the time I didnt know very much about salamander behavior, but I thought that the animals would want at least enough room to move around in. I wanted something different: a lovely, interestingly decorated tank, where my axolotls would frolic and rejoice for their improved lives.
    Poor, naive me.
    If you have kept aquatic animals for more than a year or two, you realize that they are very hard to take care of. People say that aquatic pets die easily, but it isnt that the animal dies easily its that we humans dont understand the how important is water quality for those who breathe it. Imagine being trapped in a sealed room, surrounded by water, and your life depends on a school of confused fish. You have to hope they remember to change your air often enough for you to not suffocate on your own exhaled carbon dioxide, that they remember to remove your waste, which is piled in the corners and stinking up the room, and that when they do give you fresh air its composed of the precise mixture of gases that humans evolved to breathe.
    Captive fish were not commonly kept in tanks (well, for long, at least) until the 1850s or so, because a huge number of factors have to be managed in order to keep a tank healthy. The problem is the disconnect from a larger ecosystem. Just like we would experience big changes in air quality staying in a sealed room, so do fish in water separated from larger bodies, with all the associated bacteria, soil and plants.
    The environments my axolotls were once kept in were not spartan because of cruelty or greed. Holtfreters solution maintains a water quality that is stable and helps the axolotl resist disease or fungi, so long as it is regularly changed. Compared to cycled freshwater aquaria, it may be actually less stressful for an axolotl.
    I am not saying that axolotls do not benefit from increased space to move around in, interesting habitat to explore, or the presence of others of their species. However, the nicest, most enriched aquarium in the world could still be considered a welfare concern if the water quality was bad. The welfare of many captive axolotls in nice-looking tanks is worse than the ones in the one-gallon lab containers simply because their first and most important need is not taken care of. You, in that sealed room, would not care how nice it all looked and how much stuff there was to play with if you couldnt breathe.

    Things you should know if you want to keep a fish (alive): the nitrogen cycle

    I discuss the difficulty of keeping axolotls and other aquatic animals because it illustrates a larger problem of humans not understanding animal needs. Many animals that arent as familiar to us display signs of stress in ways we cant see or read. A fish that died easily was shouting its problems in a language its caretaker couldnt understand.
    Some of the earliest steps in improving the lives of captive animals revolved around limiting and simplifying their enclosures to better serve their basic needs. Its true that a lion enclosure looks nice with a little grass, but grass hides urine and feces, which need to be cleaned up fast to decrease the risk of disease (plus, it stinks). So concrete is better, because it can just be washed quickly each night. Complex environments also have more opportunities for an animal to hurt itself, by getting stuck, or breaking something and getting cut on a sharp edge, or simply by jumping and running around. Better keep it as simple as possible. In fact, having any other animals around is a risk too a risk of getting hurt in a fight. So keep them all alone.
    This hard architecture sounds like a cruel way to design an enclosure, but for the early zoos, it was the best way to keep animals alive. Without knowing what the psychological value of enrichment, exercise, or social interaction was, in the 1930s and later zoos focused on keeping their animals as clean and injury-free as possible.

    Footage of the Berlin Zoo in the 1930s

    The focus on sterile enclosures was actually a change from even earlier animal collections, which were city park zoos. They focused on displaying animals in naturalistic conditions, because they were usually replacing the more traditional city parks where people went to walk around and see the beauty of nature. These parks often tried cage-free enclosure designs without bars. But they also had very high animal death level because of bad sanitary conditions.
    Naturalistic changed to sterile everywhere in the later 1900s. As human populations became bigger and more industrialized, farms were expected to maintain larger groups of animals on less land. Disease and injury became a major threat in these conditions, so animals were kept in more and more isolate and easy-to-clean enclosures.

    Sows in gestation crates, where they will stay for the four-month duration of their pregnancies

    Since then, zoos have changed more than farms towards a more psychological welfare-focused design, mostly because zoos rely on public visitation and farms rely on production. But even for zoos, the changes came slowly at first. From the 1930s onwards, modern science said that only physical health was important, and that concepts like play and affection were foolish ideas of the romantic minds of uneducated people. It wasnt just animals that were kept sterile in the increasingly dense population centers of humanity, humans were being treated in a similar manner, for example, in hospitals or orphanages.
    The fear of disease was understandable: it was everywhere. City orphanages limited social contact with their children because of fear of infecting them or spreading sickness. The theory of what love was at the time was that it started in infants when they were fed by their mothers (thanks, Freud), so all the caretakers needed to do was make sure the orphans were not hungry right?

    American orphanage circa 1890

    However, a new disorder began to emerge in isolated infant patients and orphans. Called anaclitic depression or hospitalism, it could lead to a weakened immune system, mental retardation, and even death. No germ or disease was the cause.
    The research of Austrian-American psychoanalyst René Spitz was among the first to study this syndrome, and what he found would be unsurprising to us: limited contact with infants by caretakers was what was causing the disoder. In contrary to most recommendations to mothers at the time, Spitz said that physical contact and affection between mother and infant was not only healthy, it was necessary for proper development.
    Harry Harlows experiments with monkeys took this idea even further. To determine whether love emerged from feeding or physical contact, he removed infant macaques from their mothers and provided them with two surrogates: a wire one with a bottle inside it, and a cloth one without any food. The monkeys ate from the first, but spent the rest of their time cuddling with the second. Harlows experiments proved that living in deprivation has serious effects on both humans and animals. This seems obvious to us now but it was a massive revolution then.

    Harlow's Studies on Dependency in Monkeys

    Around the 60s, there was a bit of a zoo revolution. Presenting sterile enclosures to the public was no longer acceptable. More and more research on animal mental disorders caused by lack of enrichment led to a change in taking care of animals not only in zoos but in laboratories and eventually farms as well.

    Living Versus Thriving
    So zoos began to change their focus from strictly physical needs to both physical and mental health. First, the focus was on reducing or eliminating disordered behaviors in the animals. The most well-known of these, of course, are stereotypies: that is, repetition of simple locomotor behaviors such as spinning, pacing, jumping, or swaying. Others include compulsive behaviors such as fur or feather-picking, nose rubbing, and self-injury.


    Except eliminating these openly unpleasant behaviors, zoos were motivated to keep their animals from seeming bored, or, for the guests benefit, boring.
    This was easier said than done, because the zoos werent exactly starting from nothing. Even the best of enclosures cannot heal the effects of long periods of deprivation, as research by Harlow and others showed. An animal raised alone in a small concrete enclosure would be scared of an open, grassy space, and display fearful or antisocial behaviors to others of its own species. Further complicating it all was that no single set of enrichment or habitat modifications could fit all the different species kept in zoos.
    Enrichment, by the way, can be different. It can be as simple as providing more than one type of food to eat, or as complex as providing multi-member social groups. Anything in an animals environment that engages the animals interest can be considered enrichment.
    Enrichment studies with laboratory animals presented some solutions to these troubles. Animal labs in general want to maintain large populations of animals at some sort of normal physio-psychological state in a small space for a low cost, because in a lab rat extra stress can strongly affect test results.

    The secrecy surrounding lab animals has the unfortunate side effect of concealing how much better their care has gotten over time. For example, this photo shows the enriched environment provided to many lab mice today

    There were other studies except Harlows monkey experiment, that proved the importance of enrichment. In 1947, Dondald Hebb compared rats raised in cages without social contact to those raised as pets, and found that the pet rats were better at solving problems than the caged rats. It suggested that brains, much like muscles, could be strengthened by frequent use.
    Further studies showed the huge differences between the brains of animals growing up in enriched vs barren environments: namely, they had more synapses and dendritic connections- a physical manifestation of the power of enrichment. René Spitz also observed this phenomenon in a more outward form in his studies of orphans: those that grew up in orphanages were more likely to show cognitive impairments than those who grew up with their families.
    But from the standpoint of animal welfare, does having more neurons and connections in the brain really improve an animals life? The answer seems to be yes, for the most part. Having more complex neural networks can serve as protection against mental disorders of old age such as dementia and Alzheimers. It can also stave off the presentation of harmful behaviors such as self-injury and anorexia (yes, animals can have anorexia too, though it isnt related to their self-esteem).
    In a more general sense, though, enrichment helps an animal physically as well as psychologically. Animals with more complex environments have reduced levels of stress and stronger immune systems than those without. The brain and the body, after all, are not exactly two entirely separate systems. So, as much as a lack of food or water makes an animal deprived, so does a lack of enrichment. Boredom can literally kill- slowly, but surely.
    So as animal caretakers, our aim should be to give our charges the best lives we can provide. This means that we have to think about more than just their physical needs. In modern society, the animals who provide us with food, clothing, and medical advances should be housed in a way that enriches their lives. And as wild spaces become smaller and smaller and active wildlife management begins to blur the lines between wildlife and captivity, it is imperative we learn how to help animals thrive because in an increasing number of cases, we will have to provide the environments they live in.

    Adapted from Beyond the Bars: Ethical Enclosures for Captive Animals (Part One) by Lydia West, 13/09/2015

    accredited zoos
    animal cruelty
    breed ()
    caretaker -,
    decrease ()
    enclose ,
    enclosure ,
    enrichment ()
    even though
    grazing territory
    life support ,
    mental disorder
    pet trade
    rare color morph
    survival skills
    take care of
    willy-nilly ,

    ( , )

    1. Look at the vocabulary and find:

    • three words that mean illness disease, disorder, sickness
    • the opposite of increase decrease
    • an adjective that means possible to understand understandable
    • an adjective that means possible to rewild rewild-able
    • a noun that means that somebody fares (or does) well wellfare
    • a noun that means someone who takes care of something caretaker

    2. We use prefixes (parts of words that stand in the beginning of the word) and suffixes (parts of words that stand in the end of the word). Match numbers 1-4 to letters a-d to create real words by combining them

    1) -able D
    2) -ed C
    3) Dis- A
    4) -less B

    A) order, ease, comfort, honesty, like 3
    B) use, help, harm, care, home, hope 4
    C) accredit, domesticate, restrict, interest 2
    D) desire, eat, understand, like, profit 1

    3. Read the introduction to the text. What are the basics of enclosure design? Finesh the sentences 1-3. Is it enough for an animal to thrive?

    • You need to be able to have an access to the animal, control the environment within the enclosure
    • There must beoxygen, water and food
    • There mustnt be any...harmfull things, germs and things that could provide germs to the enclosure

    Are these sentences true or false?
    1) There are a lot more captive axolotls than wild axolotls.
    2) All the axolotls in captivity are easy to re-introduce to the wild.
    3) If an animal becomes domesticated, it is good for its wild population.
    4) Promoting a wild animal as a cute exotic pet helps conservation.
    5) Cute videos of wild animals can help conservation if they educate people.
    6) In zoos, captive populations work as genetic banks so they can breed health re-wildable animals.
    7) It's hard to keep aquatic pets because we don't know what they need.
    8) In the past enclosures for animals were very simple and empty because people hated animals.
    9) To stay healthy, animals need enrichment psychological, physical and social.
    10) Both humans and animals would suffer without enrichment.
    11) Enrichment is the same for every animal from a fish to an ape.
    12) Harlow's experiment proved that babies need their mothers only for food.

    course 2016