As record-breaking cold weather strikes throughout North America, dropping snow and bringing cities to a standstill, humans certainly aren't the only ones feeling the chill. In Northern Mexico, the lowest temperatures in 60 years have claimed the lives of thirty-five animals housed at the Serengeti Zoo, located in the state of Chihuahua. The incident raises concerns not only of the impacts severe weather on vulnerable species, but of the quality of protection received by animals confined to zoos throughout the world.Officials from the zoo said that fourteen parrots, thirteen serpents, five iguanas, two crocodiles and a monkey froze to death in the winter freeze. The animals are normally protected from the cold with heating equipment, but a power-outage left the animals forced to brace the temperatures which reached 9°F.
A report from the AP states that "power outages have affected much of northern Mexico, forcing factories and businesses to close. Dozens of people are in shelters. Schools have been closed in Chihuahua state but are expected to open Tuesday as the weather warms."
No word on whether or not the facility entrusted with the lives of its animal residents was equipped with a contingency plan in case of such weather-related outages, or if efforts were made to shelter the animals from the elements following the power failure. Judging from the species reported to have perished in the cold, the conditions were likely understood to be life threatening and cause for intervention.
Regardless of whether negligence is ultimate deemed to have contributed to the animals' deaths or not, such an incidence raises concerns as the the quality of protection being offer to zoo animals throughout the world, particularly as weather extremes become an all too frequent occurrence.
With the morality of confining animals in zoos being called into question by some animal-rights activists, the educational value of such institutions has long been regarded as a redeeming quality -- unfortunately, however, when nearly three dozen zoo residents are allowed to freeze to death, it seems to indicate a troubling lack of regard for the well-being of the lives in their charge.
Had they been house pets left out to die in the cold, chances are their owner would face animal cruelty charges; but shouldn't greater quality standards should be expected from a zoo?