Guzoo fundamentally believes offering people the opportunity to touch and hold baby animals increases a person's respect, love and understanding of the species. To learn more about GuZoo's philosophy on this click here. A common question asked by visitors as they cuddle one of our babies (i.e. lion cub) is; did the mother reject the baby? Visitors make the assumption that we are hand raising this baby only because the natural mother wouldn't. So let me clarify.
Many zoo animals breed very well in captivity, assuming of course the animals are properly fed and housed and generally maintained adequately. But animals, even our beloved house cats and dogs, naturally fear people. Any good dog breeder knows the importance of good socialization of the puppies with people and places in order to make them loving, well adjusted pets. A litter of puppies (i.e. poodles) allowed to mature without ever being touched by a person will almost never make a good friend and companion animal. They instinctively revert back to their feral ways.
Wild animal are more naturally resistant to human contact. It is not a difficult concept to imagine. After all, that is what wild means. But when a wild animal is socialized at a young age with humans, the animal learns that people are not something to fear, and depending on the species, can actually grow to welcome human contact.
Many of the animal babies we make available for the visitors to handle here at the GuZoo are animals that must be socialized with humans at an age when they are still sucking milk. For many species, this means we must take the baby permanently away from its natural mom before their eyes open. At this young age, an infant wild animal quickly forgets what its natural mother smells like and so, accepts humans to be their new family.
This decoding and recoding of the young animals is necessary to enable the baby to form a bond with its human care giver and learn to accept people as part of its pack, pride, flock etc.
Only by bottle raising wild baby animals can we at the GuZoo offer our visitors the hands on experience that people find so rewarding. Hand rearing from a very young age accustoms the wild animal to human contact so other people can hold and cuddle it without causing the animal stress.
What About the Animal?
Many people feel that taking the baby away from its mother causes emotional distress to mother and baby alike. I am not going to address this subject in relation to the higher animals such as the great apes (and perhaps elephants), as I have no experience with these animals. But I will talk about how I see things with respect to felines, canines, rodents, weasels, raccoons and other mammals and birds.
Projecting human emotions onto animals is simply not logical. The way you feel for a lost offspring cannot be equated with the emotional response a female animal has for hers. God created mother animals with a natural instinct to guard and nurture their young. This motherly instinct ensures a better chance for survival of the offspring.
In the wild a female animal of any given species may produce anywhere from 5 to 50 babies in its life time. Studies have shown that Nature is cruel, and most young animals of any species parish long before they reach adulthood. If mother animals had the same emotional attachment that humans have for their offspring I am sure we would see animals suffering from depression and other emotional disorders brought on from years of witnessing her children get eaten alive. Animals are not designed to have emotional attachments to their offspring. God knows that would be too cruel.
Are the animals ever returned to their natural parents?
If hand raised babies are reintroduced to their natural parents it is usually only done once the baby is fully grown. If returned too early, the young wild animal can quickly revert back to its wild ways. All the handling and training done can easily be undone and the animal will no longer welcome human touch. This is dependant of course on the species in question and the age of the animal.
In captivity, unless reproduction ability is surgically altered it is often unwise to reintroduce young with their natural parents. Captivity doesn't always allow for natural selection and inbreeding can result.
With many species here at the GuZoo you will find pairs of animals housed together where one individual is hand raised and the other is captive born but natural mother raised. The hand raised animal hasn't lost it's identity totally. In most cases a hand raised animal is totally capable of being reintroduced with other members of its species and can live quite happily in captivity. The only exception I can think of is with some primates.