Monday, February 19, 2007

Zoos

I guess it's wrong to hope that the wolves get away?

http://www.ozarksfirst.com/content/fulltext/?cid=4803

We're surrounded by Mark Twain National Forest so maybe, just maybe . . .

I've always been an avid zoo-goer. For me it tracks back to childhood and a mother who worked for the Hermann Park Zoo in Houston, Texas. We were lucky kids-- we got to see the animals behind the scenes, had a Mom who educated us with books, and lectures and hands-on experiences. Once upon a time I couldn't get close enough to the attractions, nor was the day ever long enough. I literally wanted to live at the zoo. As a mother myself, I've taken my own children to the zoo, wanting to impart my passion for animals of all kinds.

But my feelings about zoos are changing as I get older. I don't really know when it happened, but at some point I began measuring most of the zoos I've visited and finding them wanting. I don't care how carefully the enclosures are created, it's never big enough, there's not enough stimulation and the animals almost never look happy (the intelligent ones like elephants, tigers, mountain lions and wolves especially). The pacing is distressing. I know the people who run these places are trying. I respect what they are trying to do (breeding programs, protecting the species, educating the public . . .). I just think they're failing the animals, that's all.

Wolves roam huge territories (a hundred square miles per pack) as do elephants. So putting them in a one t0 three acre pen and declaring that humane is really asinine--and not true. Even huge zoos like the one in St. Louis, MO miss the mark. They aren't designed for the animals as much as they are for the public.

And the small Mom and Pop Zoos have to be the worst. One of the biggest local offenders, Predator World, has been around the Ozarks for years. For a long time it was located in a ramshackle, dumpy building just off 76. I've driven by it countless times wondering how in the world they could possibly hold all the large animals they advertised (lions, tigers, bears, snakes, etc). Most locals don't have nice things to say about them, so I've refused to support them by buying a ticket. I can't figure out how they stayed open this long without paying someone off. They've recently moved to a larger facility and now boast eleven acres of animals, plus an aquarium with the largest population of sharks ever. Predator World's big "selling point" is that the public can get closer to the animals than they can in a zoo. Guess what this means to naturally shy animals like wolves?

Is it any wonder that this mama-to-be took a whiff of the air around her, sized up her dirty enclosure, turned to her mate and said, "I'm not raising children here". I am also fascinated that they could "twist the fencing like spaghetti" and escape at all. If this was just a holding pen, what does this say about the facilities?

I hope more than anything that this escape (and it's not the first they've had) draws negative attention to what they are actually doing. And further more, I hope someone out there decides to close them down.

Of course, I hope for world peace too--and see how far that's getting me?

3 comments:

Scotty said...

Hiya, Mary,

I agree with the concept of a zoo in principle; it's a wonderful way to see animals that we wouldn't normally get to see unless you have an unlimited budget and can jet-set to any country you like and watch them in the wild.

In practice though, I agree with you; no matter how well-fed they are, no mater how clean and well-kept their enclosures are, it always seems cruel to have animals (especially the larger ones) constrained by dimensions.

Just doesn't seem right: we don't like it as humans; what makes us think the animals like it any better, eh?

Mary Paddock said...

There are so many better options. We have sanctuaries here where animals like wolves and elephants can live out their lives in more or less normal situations (less so the elephants as they are obviously not native to the US). But because these animals bring so much money into the zoos, many zoos refuse to relinquish them.

Mary Paddock said...

Oh and errm . . . Hiya Scotty. :)

Kicks soapbox back under table.