When Zoos Go Too Far

It’s been a while since I ranted. At least I think so… admittedly, my brain can be a sieve sometimes. At any rate, I guess it’s about time for another one … and on one of my favorite topics too, one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  Namely, zoos.

When do zoos go too far?  What is the magical line between research, conservation, and exploitation?

There are two types of people; those who love to go to the zoo to see animals they will never otherwise see in real life, and those who despise seeing majestic animals behind bars.  In my experience, there really is no grey in this one; you either love it or hate it.

April the giraffe became a world-wide celebrity a while back.  The world watched daily, heck several times a day, as she waited to give birth to her calf.  Make no mistake, I count myself among that number. Her due date came and went, and still we watched.  Finally, her calf, a male named Tajiri, made his adorable wobbly legged entrance into the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and people watched as April tirelessly cared for her newborn son.  Then, as suddenly as she broke into fame, April was largely forgotten…but not before bringing in a pretty hefty revenue stream to the for-profit theme park where she lived.

April is now pregnant again, and I am pretty sure the zoo will once again cash in on her experience.  But what of the now forgotten Tajiri?  Well, according to this, he is now one year old and he will be loaned out to other zoos for their giraffe breeding programs.

I am enraged at this entire venture.  For one thing, with all the funds April raised for the zoo, you would think she deserves an updated pen.  Instead, they took “her” money, applied it to other areas of the zoo (not necessarily habitats), and now need more money to upgrade the giraffe section.  Only once they have earned the money to do the updates for the giraffe pens, will April be reunited with her calf.  God only knows what they plan to do with her current calf when she is born.  Holy exploitation, Batman!

Most deliberate zoo breeding is strictly for money.  The surplus animals are sold to other zoos, roadside zoos (which are a whole different class from “regular zoos” and a rant best left for another time), fake safari parks, and reports have been made that some unfortunate animals are sold for “canned safari hunts.”

To me, this is all just another example of using animals without regard for them.  April’s pen is badly in need of an update, yet they bred her again?  Just like some rescue facilities that have too many dogs, cats, horses, or whatever they cater to, if a zoo cannot take care of the animals they have they should stop bringing in more animals, and for God’s sake, stop breeding them.

Admittedly, some parks and zoos do keep animals for conservation and research purposes … there are some very good to excellent facilities around the country. Others, however, keep animals in unnatural, inhumane conditions, and then are shocked when these animals are unpredictable, or worse, (*gasp!) act like animals.  It’s not rocket science, folks.  Elephants, whales, lions, heck even penguins were not made to be penned for someone’s amusement.  Personally, I think it has the potential to drive the animals insane. Regardless of your views on zoos, surely, we can all agree that when these animals are placed in zoos, they become our responsibility.

Part of that responsibility is to make sure that conditions for these animals are as good as they can possibly be, not to keep breeding more animals into a bad situation to make simply money for the organization.  It’s funny to me, the people who protest puppy mills, where dogs – both female and male – are kept in horrid conditions and continuously bred for money, are probably the first ones sipping a slushee in front of the giraffe pen at the Animal Adventure Park.

As for April’s newest pregnancy, consider this:  if we follow her latest experience, are we part of the problem?



Time for Another Rant (Or, The Glorious Hunter Extraordinaire)

So, I have to rant once in a while. Who doesn’t, right?  For me, it’s usually about animal issues…sometimes having to do with idiotic news stories and the like. But mostly animal issues.  I would apologize but I’m not necessarily sorry — ranting can be cathartic and if I bring up a subject that helps enlighten even one person, so much the better. Don’t worry though.  I try not to get on my soap box too often….I’m afraid of heights.

Well, for a little while now it’s been hunting season on the Eastern Shore so that means I have the great pleasure of waking up not to my somewhat annoying alarm, but to multiple gunshots as near-sighted hunters try valiantly to shoot geese as they streak across the sky.

You have to just see these guys (and gals) and the lengths they go to – it’s amazing.  Let’s see, they put out decoys, use scent markers, mating calls and even food to draw out the animals and then, using a high-powered gun, simply pepper the sky with shot while trying to snag a goose. It’s all very impressive and superior.  I seriously doubt that these hunters put this much effort into any other aspect of their life.  Although with a level of “cheating” of this magnitude, it may be better if they don’t.

Now, most of the hunters I know claim that they kill because it puts food on the table. Quite a noble feat.  But if that’s the case, then why do so many of them feel the need to mount the heads of their kills on the walls of their den?  I know nothing whets my appetite more than seeing a glass-eyed deer head staring out vacantly over the big screen t.v.

And when you’re talking “big game” hunting, just who exactly grills up coyote, elephant, lion or giraffe anyway? Sorry if I have a hard time believing the excuses hunters come up with when it’s probably more truthful to say they simply enjoy killing. Their moral compasses aren’t exactly pointing due north if you get what I’m saying.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but not once have I mentioned the word “sport” in this post and there’s a good reason for that.  Hunting is not a sport. Now if a person were to go out with nothing but their bare hands and come back home with a lion in tow, I admit that I would be duly impressed. But there’s nothing impressive about someone laying out bait, setting up decoys, hiding behind a tree (or in the case of big game hunts, being led right up to the target by a guide), and shooting an absolutely oblivious animal with a high-powered gun.

As if the environment changes things somehow. I mean, think about it.  If you were sitting in your living room, dressed in drab clothing that looks like your couch, drinking beer for hours in silence, and waiting for a mouse to come out from behind the bookshelf, and wander onto a cheese-laced mousetrap…well, you’d be a loser. But do it outside and substitute a wolf or a hippo or a deer for the mouse. Well, now you’re a hunter!

And some hunters will go to the most asinine extremes just to kill something….anything.  Take prairie dog hunting.  Yes, this is a “thing.” All prairie dog hunters do is hunker down in a lawn chair, oftentimes setting off a charge underground that scares the prairie dogs up and out of their warm and cozy homes, and then shoot them in the head when they pop up. It’s like some perverted Whack-A-Mole game. The funny part is that the difficulty level looks just about the same.


Look at the athleticism in these prairie dog hunters

Then there’s the charming Brady Bunch clan that’s been seen around the internet posing and smiling over the body of an elephant they killed while it was eating. How impressive, right? It must take great skill to kill a herbivore during its lunch break.  And the children especially look pleased with themselves.


Trophy hunting safari

Teaching a child to kill anything is not something to be proud of in my opinion.   If these same kids go home and kill the neighbor’s cat, you better believe they’ll get a completely different reaction from society.   So what makes one acceptable and the other not? Therein lays the irony of hunting. During these specific months and at this specific place and with this specific animal, you’re good to go.  But take that exact same mentality someplace else, kill a stray cat or a dog on the street for instance, and you’re an unhinged monster. I guess I just don’t understand how hunters rationalize the difference when there really isn’t one.