we haven’t been to the zoo in years, two years to be exact, and in that time there’s been a few changes but mostly it’s the same neat place to visit (even neater in the winter when the crowds are sparse and you can park up front like some kind of zoo vip).
zoos are funny beasts aren’t they? while i’m not sure the sea horses care if they're in an ocean or a tank i do wonder about the quality of zoo-life for polar bears or wolves or most any predator animal whose life is based on roaming vast lands for meals and the heck of it. the toronto zoo seems to be dedicated to education and conservation and compared with places lacking that critical mandate(marineland marineland marineland), this is an important distinction.
but i wonder what we’re really learning from looking at animals up close. that they’re cool? that they’re a little like us? are we to feel humbled that these creatures exist in spite of us? or accomplished that we’ve mastered them in the capturing?
if the mission is to educate, but the reality is children pulling parents from one exhibit to the next feeling dismay when the animals aren’t ‘doing anything’, i wonder if that mission is an accurate reflection of truth, or a hopeful aspiration for one day.
i listened to a podcast recently about a trend in the states of public zoo feedings where they offer predators live animals to satiate their need to not only feed, but hunt. zoo guest feedback has been mostly positive and the feedings have created this interesting dialogue around the often times disassociated realms of eating meat, and killing it. education becomes real through direct observation and the discussion it sparks.
in my opinion zoos at their best show us how just how diverse the animal kingdom is, and how small the human slice is in the pie of life. we are capable of doing mammoth-sized damages to the earth and its inhabitants, but we can also be innovative and courageous in our strategies to right the wrongs we’ve done. the responsible zoo’s task then becomes ensuring that they’re always soliciting for the latter, not the former.