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Why Shrimp and Elephants Need Treadmills

Why do shrimp and elephants need treadmills? They don’t. Ever.

But let’s get to two recent justifications for making animals run on treadmills.

1.    Probably using tax dollars of some kind, David Scholnick, a biologist from Pacific University, put shrimp on a treadmill, even loading them up with backpacks containing extra weight, to test their "performance." He wanted to see if sick shrimp might be less able to recover from exercise than their healthy peers.

What do you think the outcome was?

I was thinking that if, like many scientists, Scholnick was eventually going to link the results to some rare disease in people that looks just like a condition marine crustaceans suffer from, some readers would feel that his research was justified. We tend to forgive absurd experiments if they are for the greater good of mankind.

But here are the results. "These studies will give us a better idea of how marine animals can perform in their native habitat [which includes treadmills?] when faced with increasing pathogens and immunological challenges."

First, I wonder how the shrimp who were ill got that way. I assume they were "faced with increasing pathogens and immunological challenges," that were carefully orchestrated. Second, I ask: How does this benefit anyone, including shrimp? Third: Is anyone surprised that shrimp dealing with infection are less active? And finally, I do a lot of grant writing and grant reviewing, and I’d love to meet the panel that approved this "experiment" for funding. I’ve got a couple of questions for them.

2.      Maggie, the 23-year old African elephant, currently being held captive at the Alaska Zoo (cuz, you know, Africa and Alaska provide nearly identical habitats for her), is 1,000 pounds overweight. I’ll give you one guess why. As assistant zoo director, Pat Lampi admits, one of the challenges with captive elephants is to get them enough exercise.

Maggie is on a diet and exericise regime, like most Americans, because she is overweight from lack of exercise and stimulation. Zoo director, Tex Edwards said, "We think it is possible that a lot of elephants around the world will find more regular exercise a beneficial addition to their lives."

What he should have said, was: We think it’s possible that a lot of elephants IN ZOOS will find more regular exercise a beneficial addition to their lives. Animals in the wild aren’t fat. They get fat because we put them in an environment where they don’t get their natural physical and social needs met.

Go to Save Wild Elephants for a list of elephant-free zoos, the stats on elephants in captivity, and ways you can help this massive, sensitive creatures.

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