Wednesday 16 March 2016

Zoos filling up with geriatric animals as medical advances extend life expectancy

Vets are debating whether caged animals should be kept alive longer than in the wild – or be allowed to die

Tom Bawden Environment Editor 
Friday 11 March 2016

He is one of Blackpool Zoo’s best-loved residents, famed for his sexual appetite as much as his gentle demeanour. And at 94 years of age, Darwin is proving there’s plenty of life left in the old tortoise yet.

But the creature’s longevity is not welcome news for everyone. Darwin is one of a growing breed of geriatric zoo and aquarium animals that are beginning to fill up UK attractions after significant advances in medicine, diagnosis and care have extended their life expectancy.

Illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and kidney failure, long associated with ageing human beings but rarely detected in animals, are cropping up in zoos with increasing frequency. This is because animals have typically not lived long enough before for these symptoms to afflict them.

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