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Zoos are depressing

By MindMesh in Op-Ed
Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 12:15:52 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

When I was younger it was fun to go to the zoo every once in a while because I loved the animals and I wanted to see them and learn about them and be with them, but I always got the feeling that many of the animals were depressed, especially the big cats, apes and other animals that have to spend their lives in relatively small cages or running areas.

Now I know the animals are depressed and I'm kinda philosophically opposed to having the zoos at all. It makes me sad if I go to Hogle Zoo here in Salt Lake City and see those big beautiful African lions and tigers pacing angrily back and forth in their tiny concrete cells. It's a little disturbing to see the big apes sedentary, frowning, picking their noses or angrily beating on the glass, mad at some teaser.

I think we should protect their natural environments and perhaps go visit them there rather than capturing or breeding them and bringing them to every major city to spend their lives behind bars. Hey, I know what it's like to be locked up, my freedom taken away and for no valid reason. I spent 32 hours in jail last August for something the Prosecuter was embarrassed to have for a case and resigned without a hearing. I can hardly imagine what spending my entire life there would be like. Can you?

-Daniel McGuire

This is the story that got me started on this topic this fine morning.


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Zoos are:
o Depressing 25%
o Anger provoking 3%
o Maddening 0%
o Numbing 5%
o Zap me with electricity! This story is boring. 27%
o Old and archaic, we should get rid of them. 15%
o Only trying to educate people and expose people to the beauty of the world's animals 17%
o So fun 5%

Votes: 76
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o story
o Also by MindMesh

Display: Sort:
Zoos are depressing | 41 comments (39 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Zoos (4.37 / 8) (#1)
by ritlane on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:26:49 AM EST

It sounds like you are mad at the older type zoos. Where the animals are simply put in concrete cells for peoples amusement. Instead of rallying for their destruction, perhaps you should call for more funding.

Really good zoos try to recreate the animals natural habitat. So much so, in fact, that any zoo goer will tell you it is often hard to actually see the animals. This makes sense, because it is difficult to see the animals in nature, they avoid people, that is why we made zoos.

Furthermore, zoos play a vital role in species preservation. Firstly be educating the public about the animals and their habitat loss, and secondly through breeding the animals. That is why you often hear things such as "only X animals left in the wild" That is because there are zoos out there breeding, and taking gene samples of the animals to ensure further generations.

I like fighting robots
"natural" environment (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by Elkor on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 02:54:46 PM EST

However, even zoos that provide more than the basic concrete cell fall far short of a truly natural environment.

In many cases, animals such as Lions, Tigers and bears can inhabit an area of 2-3 acres in size.

It is the difference between a studio apartment and a townhouse. Yes, the townhouse is better than the studio, but both are still too small.

To understand what I mean by the above, unplug all TVs, Radios and telephones and lock yourself into your place for 3-4 weeks. Arrange to have a friend bring food by (but not talk to you). You will quickly find that you run out of things to do and become quite bored.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with your other points about informing and preserving. But it's a heck of a trade off.

At what expense do we save these species? Is a life of captivity with no hope of freedom (and being unsuitable for it should it arrive) better than no life at all?


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Open range (none / 0) (#22)
by Robert S Gormley on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 10:56:27 PM EST

Have a look at Victoria's Weribbee Open Range Zoo - huge estate, open range, safari style... would this be a compromise?

[ Parent ]
San Diego Wild Animal Park (none / 0) (#32)
by Whizard on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 01:32:28 PM EST

Also see the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It is by far the best zoo I've been to.

So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]
Well... (3.25 / 4) (#3)
by br284 on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:43:47 AM EST

... there was this time last summer (most of it actually) where I was in a small village in central Belize trying to work as part of a group that educated the local uneducated poor population that a nearby park was a special resource because it housed a vaiety of special animal species such as the jaguar, the agouti, the howler monkey, and many others. We were explaining this to a kid named Samson (~ 11 yrs old).

Weeks later, we were talking about ways that the park could be preserved so some British citrus company just couldn't come in, raze the land and start another citrus orchard. Samson overheard us and made the comment that he thought it should be chopped down. We asked him if he liked animals, and all that. He told us that he liked the animals, but that he didn't think that there were any in the forest of if there were, he would never see them because the animals all ran away long before people could see them. I thought about it and other than frogs and spiders, I had not seen any larger animals in the park. For some reason that day, Samson's comment seemed to hold a gem of insight.


Caged Life Isn't So Bad.. (2.83 / 6) (#4)
by ignatiusst on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:49:07 AM EST

While I would probably rather not spend my entire life behind bars, my outlook might change if I were, say, a gazelle. It would, in my opinion, be far better to spend my days grazing behind bars than being the savannah's favorite buffet.

Even Lions and Tigers have it far easier in captivity than in the wild, where they have to contend with drought, famine, and survival of the fittest.

Having said that, I am not suggesting that the caged life is better. Only, I am suggesting that we might have a different view if we look at it through the eyes of the non-sentient species that spend their days being fed and cared for rather than through the homo sapien goggles we too often wear in determining what is "best" for the beasts of the world.

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift

the easy life and sentiency (3.00 / 3) (#5)
by MindMesh on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 10:20:47 AM EST

"Even Lions and Tigers have it far easier in captivity than in the wild, where they have to contend with drought, famine, and survival of the fittest."

Surely I'd have it easier if I just spent my life in jail, nothing to worry about, just reading, doing some work, watching TV, lifting some weights all day long. It might be kind of nice. No need to worry where my next meal is going to come from or if I'll have a place to sleep. Eaaassy.

"Having said that, I am not suggesting that the caged life is better."

Oh, O.K. I take all my sarcasm back now. :)

"Only, I am suggesting that we might have a different view if we look at it through the eyes of the non-sentient species that spend their days being fed and cared for rather than through the homo sapien goggles we too often wear in determining what is "best" for the beasts of the world."

Personally, I disagree that they are 'non-sentient'. I think many animals have minds.
Definition of sentient from dictionary.com
:sen·tient (snshnt, -sh-nt)
Having sense perception; conscious: "The living knew themselves just sentient puppets on God's stage" (T.E. Lawrence).
Experiencing sensation or feeling.


[ Parent ]
Yes, but... (3.60 / 5) (#13)
by Rocky on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 02:01:53 PM EST

> Surely I'd have it easier if I just spent my life in jail, nothing to worry about, just reading, doing some work, watching TV,
> lifting some weights all day long. It might be kind of nice. No need to worry where my next meal is going to come from
> or if I'll have a place to sleep. Eaaassy.

... you don't have to worry about dropping the soap in the shower when you're in the zoo...

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
[ Parent ]
Inherent Nature (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by joecool12321 on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:23:55 AM EST

Sometimes inherent nature cannot be changed. For example, a person with wanderlust is ill-suited for the confines of a cell. Perhaps a gazelle is the same way, but I doubt it. If a gazelle were capable of finding happiness in such a situation, the walls keeping the incredible jumper would be lowered, to allow for better viewing. Since the walls remain high, one must assume the gazelle would escape if given the chance. And furthermore, just because a human can break an an animal's spirit doesn't mean the spirit should be broken.

"spend their days being fed and cared for"

I couldn't stand it. I must be active. In fact, most people have an inherent need for activity. That's part of the problem with something like welfare -- it denies the inherent need for action and responsibility.


[ Parent ]
Zoos serve a purpose (4.00 / 3) (#6)
by joegee on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 10:50:47 AM EST

Confined or not, some of the animals now kept n zoos are kept there because they no longer safely exist in the wild. Because of decreased space, poaching, predation by non-native species, and illegal marketing in endangered species, species like the lowland mountain gorilla, the Javan rhino, the panda, and the Sumatran tiger now have their safest, most stable populations kept in zoos.

Theoretically, once the numbers have been bred back up, zoos can successfully reintroduce species to their native environment. Unfortunately this is often the only option left for a species that hovers on the brink of extinction.

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
Size Doesn't Matter (3.40 / 5) (#7)
by joecool12321 on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:13:15 AM EST

My opinion on this matter is changing somewhat, but I think it is an interesting issue.

Humans appreciation of nature is directly related to their appreciation of other humans. Now, I am not a deep ecologist, I don't think the anthropocentric bias has any bearing on reality. However, I think nature has inherent beauty. Furthermore, as a Christian, I think there is an inherent responsibility to respect the creation (Tolkien has greatly ifluenced me in this area). Finally, the most depraved killers, like Dahlmer, begin witht the torture of small animals. It seems an odd twist of fate that those who most love animals are those who most contribute to thier captivity. It is, however, sometimes necessary.

When an animals sole chance of survival is through captivity, I think captivity is justified. This indicates a respect for nature, rather than an abuse of nature. In this I can find no problem.

"protect their natural environments and perhaps go visit them there"

I don't know if I can agree with this. The size of the prison doesn't change the degree of captivity. However, you man not be speaking of preserves, but safaris. I'm still not sure that I agree, although this may be the closest. A safari still lowers nature to a commodity, owend and subsidized by The Man (c). There's still a fundamental level of disrespect, it seems to me.

Rather, nature needs to be an integrated part of every day life. Difficult in modernity, but it's the only way to experience nature wholly.


Nature.... (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by Elkor on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 03:01:32 PM EST

When an animals sole chance of survival is through captivity, I think captivity is justified. This indicates a respect for nature, rather than an abuse of nature. In this I can find no problem.

What if we are, in actuality, going against the will of nature (or God, if you prefer to associate some sentient directive)?

What if the usefullness of a species has passed, and that by continuing the existance of a species (either at all or in its current form) we are inhibiting the evolution or progression of nature to its ultimate conclusion?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an advocate for hunting/extinction of endangered species. But, I would preffer a hands off approach to the environment. If the species can't survive without us, they shouldn't survive.

However, if the species can't survive BECAUSE of us, then conservation could/should be explored as an option.

Preservation is another word for stasis.
Stasis is a lack of progress, or stagnation.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Overstated (none / 0) (#17)
by joecool12321 on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 05:45:53 PM EST

I totally agree, I may have overstated my opinion. The difficulty arises from the issue that humans are a part of nature as well as the animals. And is it not evolution, if other species become extinct because of us? I mean, we're natural beings, too.

I'm advocating respect for nature, I guess. I guess I'm also not completely sure what it looks like.


[ Parent ]
Zoos don't substitute habitat (4.44 / 9) (#9)
by fhotg on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 12:03:36 PM EST

I don't like the argument, that zoos would help to preserve species. Ok, in some rare cases, particularily popular mammals, the 'breed in captivity - reintroduce them' - strategy might work. This however, is not what zoos are designed for, you could set up protected areas serving the purpose better.

And if it's just about still having some specimen around, why not go one step further and be happy with a seed-bank ?

Ecologists know, that the characteristics and sanity of a whole ecosystem is determining the survival of species. This includes size, connectedness with other areas, degree of human disturbance, flora, fauna, soil ... hundreds of factors, interrelated in complicated ways.

You want to protect species ? Go protect and restore habitats !

Zoos are entertainment for humans, I question any supposed educational function. Go with your kids to the local forest, introduce them to the local living nature. This can be way more spectacular than the caged exotic beast.

The rest is an ethical question. I don't like zoos, but would have a hard time to explain why to people who think animals are "non-sentient".
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

EXCELLENT point! (4.50 / 2) (#10)
by joegee on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 12:26:42 PM EST

Zoos are no substitute for sound conservation practices. Zoos are shaky, at best, at offering a last line of defense against extinction. That's a piss poor hope for a creature like the golden tamarind, which will probably never again have habitat. As you point out, if we lose an ecosystem we lose biodiversity, and we lose a complex interrelated system that we will probably never be able to duplicate.

And I agree, there's little I find as sad as an animal that knows it is confined in an artificial world, dependent on keepers and handlers.

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
Reintroduction has worked from time to time... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by grout on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 01:52:23 PM EST

But of course you're right, zoos aren't the only way to maintain breeding populations in captivity.
Chip Salzenberg, Free-Floating Agent of Chaos

[ Parent ]
But that's the least of it! (none / 0) (#18)
by Otter on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:04:02 PM EST

I don't like the argument, that zoos would help to preserve species. Ok, in some rare cases, particularily popular mammals, the 'breed in captivity - reintroduce them' - strategy might work. This however, is not what zoos are designed for, you could set up protected areas serving the purpose better.

That's probably true, but you're missing the most important thing zoos and animal parks do for conservation: they increase awareness of animals, cause people to become attached to them and promote the mindset that leads to conservation. (Unfortunately, this is much more succesful for cuddly megafauna like pandas and elephants than it is for beetles or ferns.)

Whaling was stopped just before a number of species (blue and right whales, for instance) went over the brink. I find marine animal shows distasteful, but there's not a doubt in my mind that if it hadn't been for Namu, Flipper and the rest, blue whales would be extinct today.

[ Parent ]

Captivity for Conservation (none / 0) (#21)
by fhotg on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 10:50:09 PM EST

That's probably true, but you're missing the most important thing zoos and animal parks do for conservation: they increase awareness of animals, cause people to become attached to them and promote the mindset that leads to conservation.
I see you point. I'm not sure however, if unreflected - oh so cuute - attachment promotes mindsets good for conservation, but yes, whatever might work. If so, I think the media (particularly cute animal films) are as least as effective (outreach and possible emotional charge per cost) as zoos and shows and you seem to validate this.(Namu and Flipper are TV shows, or are these also the names of real animals at you local aquarium ?) Free Willy ! :)
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Please don't visit their habitat. (4.33 / 6) (#12)
by jason on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 01:55:27 PM EST

Good zoos not only serve as front-ends to conservation effors, they also keep people out of the wild. Believe it or not, this is a good thing. You really, really don't want people trampling wild habitat, dropping candy wrappers and feeding the "cute animals". Please leave the wild wild.

Take as an example what's happening in Yosemite. It is possible to manage an area and keep it natural, but it's terribly difficult. Wildlife management departments in the US are facing exploding tourism with decreased budgets... Good zoos help shed some of the load.

BTW, sounds like your "Hogle Zoo" is pretty lousy. Zoos like San Diego's and (iirc) Busch Gardens would leave you with a much better feeling.


You just have a depressing zoo (4.66 / 9) (#16)
by localroger on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 05:17:41 PM EST

I am privileged to live in New Orleans, home of the Audubon Institute. In my lifetime the Audubon Zoo has gone from regularly appearing on "10 worst zoos" lists to regularly placing #2 or #3 on the "10 best." This has been made possible by an activist Friends of the Zoo organization (since rolled into the Institute, which handles memberships and runs the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, and two or three less public-oriented conservation parks).

Audubon has been at the forefront of a sea change in the way zoos are run. Besides an emphasis on conservation and reintroduction programs, zookeepers have started to pay close attention to how animals act. Yes, you can tell when an animal is depressed; and modern zoo exhibits are carefully designed to prevent this.

While modern zoo exhibits may not be as large as an animal's natural range, most animals do not require this. Consider humans; in the "wild" it would be quite natural for us to walk 10 to 20 miles a day hunting or foraging, and to occupy a territory of many square miles. Yet most humans are not put out of countenance by spending most of our lives in concrete and sheetrock boxes with smallish windows, sitting down and focusing on abstract symbols. And I doubt if many of us miss being hunted by the occasional saber-toothed tiger, either.

No, humans aren't happy in jail cells; but when you really look at it the places we volunatarily spend our lives aren't really much bigger. There are tricks we use to make these spaces more palatable. By careful observation, zookeepers are seeking the tricks which keep various animal species happy in captivity.

There is much research into spacial requirements, diet, lighting, and companionship. Audubon in particular is a pioneer of mixed-species exhibits (it was forced into this because it occupies a small and unexpandable tract in the middle of the city). They have done much experimentation and rearranging as they learned things that did and didn't work -- much by paying attention to the animals.

An artificial small space can be a prison, but it can also be a comfortable, secure home. I have personally observed birds which freaked out when placed in cages that were too large. Each species has its quirks, and within a species individuals have their quirks, too. Modern zoos recognize this. Yes, the old zoos with their bare barred cells were awful, but those aren't being built any more and the ones that exist are being upgraded as fast as money becomes available.

Finally, not all animals can be reintroduced. Many of those lions and tigers have no habitat left; what little exists is infested with human poachers whom I can assure you are much, much worse than zookeepers.

Life in a modern zoo is less like life in jail than it is like life on a cruise ship; it's limited, but there are scheduled activities and the environment is designed to keep you satisfied and entertained, if in a predictable and artificial way. While many humans would be horrified at a sentence of life aboard such a ship, others would be ready to pack their bags the moment it was offered. (Just as many a herbivore might, if such communication was possible, jump at the chance to live in a guaranteed predator-free zoo exhibit.) And nearly all of us could get used to it if we had to. Especially if the cruise director were listening to our complaints and adjusting the environment accordingly.

I can haz blog!

Utah is a zoo (2.50 / 4) (#19)
by lvogel on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 09:10:22 PM EST

And everyone there are caged animals. Utah is one of the most politically oppressive states I think I have ever lived in. Any state passing a law banning sex education in school even with written parental consent should have its governmental head re-examined. There are more reasons but this one of the more outrageous ones that come to mind.
-- ----------------------
"When you're on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog!"

-a dog
That bill was vetoed thank goodness (none / 0) (#25)
by MindMesh on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:38:15 PM EST

At least the Governer vetoed that bill you refer to after receiving over 3000 letters urging him to do so.

[ Parent ]
Opposing viewpoint: It's better than nothing. (4.66 / 3) (#23)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:19:37 PM EST

I'm sorry animals are imprisoned, as well. It IS imprisonment, there is no way to deny it, and it is certainly not merited by the animal being dangerous to the degree that we have a compelling reason to imprison it. However, a very strong case can be made that they are imprisoned for their own protection - the exact reverse of why humans are imprisoned.

Many animals, especially rare and exotic ones, are losing their habitat to the encroachments of the most successful and expansionist of all animals, man. We're too successful for their good. ;-) However, we're willing to pay to visit zoos - money which goes to supporting the survival of at least those animals imprisoned therein - because enough of us find joy in seeing such interesting creatures to make it worth our while.

Perhaps it would be best to think of zoos as a saving grace - a last refuge where humanity might deign to allow a few ragged remnants of the rest of Earth's fauna to survive. Even if it is only for our amusement and edification, to the animals, life is life. And it is also a hope for a future; extinction is forever. Many zoos are making serious attempts at captive breeding projects to keep endangered species alive. Without these efforts, several species would now be extinct, that man has instead saved (from himself).

If not for the fact that we at least find some animals worthy of visiting in imprisonment to marvel at, if not for that saving grace, we might wind up annihilating them all in their entirety. Although things admittedly could be better, I think many animals in zoos have much to be thankful for. I shall continue to patronize zoos and I recommend that any other animal lovers out there do so as well. =)


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Full agreement and curiosity (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by Mr.Surly on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:21:35 PM EST

I fully agree your statements about zoos. Though I'm sure it's better than people trying to see them 'in the wild.'

In any case, I'm more curious about this strange incarceration you mentioned.

Perhaps I'll post that story here (none / 0) (#38)
by MindMesh on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 05:40:19 AM EST

It would make a good Kuro5hin story. It's one I'd feel compelled to spend a lot of time on, going into detail about what happened, my thoughts on the matter and how I felt during the illegal arrest and incarceration. Look for it soon here. Probably.
The thing is, the story isn't over yet. (again probably) I'm trying to decide whether to get over the fear of actually following through with the lawsuit I had planned or not. My conversation with the internal affairs department of the police investigator over the phone was discouraging but not suprising and I had my first nightmare in years a few days after speaking with him. I was back in jail for nothing and had to witness a jailer physically intimidating my cellmate, then when I spoke up in his defense had to undergo a similar intimidation. (this is how I feel many jailers would act in the waking world if they thought they could get away with it)
Jail sucks so don't get caught. (The percentage of Americans who'd be spending time in jail if they were all busted for doing whatever illegal thing they do whether it's smoking or selling pot, having sex with someone not 18, 16, 14, or whatever the age of consent is in the area, drinking before the magic age of 21, or whatever else they're doing 'wrong' is ridiculously high. This is going to be a generalization so forgive me: The people who are attracted to working in jails are twisted, sadistic, and relatively uneducated.
I was assumed to be guilty and scum just cause I was in there even though I had not been convicted of a crime in my life. I'm still extremely angry about the whole ordeal. Does it show? I feel like I am possibly putting myself in danger even talking about it here for anyone to see and I don't like that fear. What must happen for us to overcome for real? When is the U.S. going to WAKE UP to what we're doing with our prison systems, out of control laws, and cops that don't blink at violating basic civil liberties if you're not rich? Rant over.

[ Parent ]
That's nice... (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by DeadBaby on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 12:14:42 AM EST

Feeling bad for animals in a zoo is akin to feeling bad for yourself because you live inn a house or apartment instead of living in a cave.. your life is far better even though you don't have the imense freedom of being able to wander the planes freely. Would you give up your microwave, running water, fast food 24x7 and all the other things we enjoy as humans for some woods to prance around in?

Animals in a zoo have very little to do with animals who are born into the wild.. given the choice most would freely go to whatever one provided the most food.. it's simple animal logic.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
I would (none / 0) (#37)
by MindMesh on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 05:13:36 AM EST

<CITE>Would you give up your microwave, running water, fast food 24x7 and all the other things we enjoy as humans for some woods to prance around in?</CITE>

There would be closer community, less people, clean air/water/soil and a more peaceful, connected life if we as a species returned to hunting/gathering and 'prancing' in the woods. But I have to admit our modern world with the internet, music, houses, electricity, neutron bombs, biological and chemical warfare, factory farms, and global conflicts is pretty interesting too. Our world is fascinating, but to answer your question, yes I would give it all up in a heartbeat.
Read <cite>The Clan of the Cave Bear</cite> by Jean Auel and <cite>Ishmael</cite> by Daniel Quinn.

<cite>...given the choice most would freely go to whatever one provided the most food.. it's simple animal logic."</cite>

I don't think that's necessarily the case. If I were a Gorilla and could choose between running with my troup, eating straight from the forest and spending my time in an enclosed area no matter how large, I would choose the forest. I think the Gorilla would be smart enough to do the same.

[ Parent ]
Humans live in cramped quarters too (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by smallstepforman on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 12:32:18 AM EST

My bedroom is 3m x 3m. My study is 3m x 3m where I spend most of my free time. My work cubicle is 2m x 2m. My car is 1.7m x 1.7m. I'm confined to these quarters for most of my life. If I chose to abandon this lifestyle, my chances of survival in the wild are no better than a wild lions. So who's got a crappy lifestyle?

I can always change my profession, but with bills to pay and a family to support thats not as easy as it might seem. Look at it this way - the lions are regularly fed, they receive routine medical attention and they're even introduced to a mate (hehe - no competition to fight over). I'd love to be fed, taken care of, have someone wash away my waste and be introduced to a mate...

Hmm (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by ocelot on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 03:02:20 AM EST

So you wouldn't feel at all annoyed if someone grabbed you from your current situation and confined you in an apartment with your family (or a few strangers, or both), fed you tuna fish casserole every day, hozed you down whenever they thought you stunk, stuck you with needles whenever they thought you needed medical attention, and locked you in a room with the most unattractive person you've ever seen until you had sex with him/her? And let people pay for the privledge of watching this? (hmmm...sounds a little like reality TV, but that's beside the point)

Ok, so it's a bit of an exaggeration, and I generally support zoos. However, claiming that it's analogous to living in an apartment is kind of silly. You can make choices about where you live, what you eat, who you socialize with. You may not choose to take full advantage of this freedom, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. There's a whole range of possibilities between a tiny apartment and running naked in the wilderness.

The main difference is that human cages tend to be self-imposed by fear of the unknown, while the cages in zoos are imposed on the animals against their will.

[ Parent ]

Itai! (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by enani on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 02:25:30 AM EST

I am feeling very sorei for Nasubi! =u.u=
--=* Moshi-moshi! *=--
[ Parent ]
I had no idea! (none / 0) (#39)
by MindMesh on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 06:28:49 AM EST

Damn! That's just horrible that this man was tricked into doing this in front of huge national audiences that he didn't know were there! Truman show, anybody? This is *not* informed consent!

[ Parent ]
Japanese TV... (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by strider5 on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 06:13:35 PM EST

What is it that compells people to watch shows like this over in Japan? Perhaps, the same reasons people here are facsinated with shows like "Jerry Springer"; whereas viewers in Japan watch to see how well their hero (in this case Nasubi) fares under trials of adversity,viewers of talk shows like Jerry Springer seem to be pushing for the proverbial anti-hero by viewing and in some cases advocating the grotesque, the shocking and the weird. Even shows like "Fear Factor", accepted as 'usual' telivision shown at prime time on the major networks falls into the same type of vain. The dissapointing thing is: people are eating it up. Is there anything good to watch on TV anymore?

[ Parent ]
Food for thought (3.50 / 2) (#28)
by AmberEyes on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 01:42:59 AM EST

When Polar Bears first started appearing in zoos, people would watch them pace back and forth in their enclosures, and lament. "Look, they are suffering", they would complain. "They want to go back home. See them pace?" Back and forth, back and forth, all day, those polar bears would pace.

So the zoos sent some observationalists to watch Polar Bears in their natural habitat. Guess what? They did the exact same thing -- they'd stake out a small bit of territory, and pace, back and forth, back and forth, guarding it.

And the best part is that they don't need to worry about getting shot by poachers in a zoo.


"But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
Not ideal, but not evil (4.33 / 3) (#29)
by ocelot on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 02:18:07 AM EST

No one, least of all the zoos themselves, claim to be the ideal solution to the problem of disappearing species. From a conservation standpoint, zoos (the good ones, not the ones with lots of tiny concrete cages) serve as a stopgap. A stopgap may not be ideal, but it may prevent a species from being destroyed before an ideal solution can be found.

What purposes do zoos serve beyond entertainment?

Research - Most of the real work zoos do takes place behind the scenes. Zoos (especially natural habitat zoos, such as the San Diego Wild Animal Park) provide an environment where animal health, behavior, etc. can easily be studied. This knowledge may be crucial for reintroducing the animals into the wild in the future. This research may not be possible, or may be less effective, in the animal's original habitat for political or logistical reasons.

Funding - I admit, I'm guessing on this one. I don't actually know if the public side of zoos does much to fund the behind-the-scenes work. However, I would guess that it does, both directly (through ticket costs, concession stands, etc.) and indirectly (through donations). The money for the ideal solution doesn't just magically appear, and zoos are a good way of getting people to pay attention to the cause.

Species preservation - Zoos provide both a safe place for animals to live when their habitat is threatened, and a place where their breeding can be controlled and optimized. This is especially important for extremely endangered species - there may be enough individuals left for the species to survive, but not without human intervention to optimize genetic diversity (not to mention protecting the remaining individuals from poachers and other threats).

Just for the record, many zoos are dedicated to preserving plant species as well as animals.

Will zoos protect every species on the planet from extinction? No, obviously not. Their resources and knowledge are limited. Does that mean that their efforts should be stopped because they can't help everyone right now? (Why don't we stop cancer research as well? It's obviously pointless, since we don't have a solution for everything right now, and people are still dying of cancer while this research is going on...)

Education - Zoos will not magically make every visitor become a rabid environmentalist. However, zoos get millions of visitors a year. If they manage to convince even 1% of their visitors to do something to help the cause (through donations, their choice of job, or a choice to recycle or not buy poached ivory), that's a huge number of people who might otherwise have not become involved.

Could this be done through videos and other media? Perhaps to some extent, but the impact of standing 10 feet away from an elephant and seeing one on tv is different. And you're still presumably confining some animals somewhere because they don't have anywhere else to live - they just wouldn't be on public display.

As for the zoos with tiny concrete and wire cages which exist soley for entertainment purposes, I don't believe they serve any real purpose, even from an educational standpoint (they obviously didn't do anything to educate the author of this article on what kind of good zoos can do). I think the zoo effort should focus on areas where the most good can be done. And really, I'm not convinced of the morality of public display of animals. However, I do think that modern zoos on the whole do more good than harm.

Someone is going crazy with the tar brush! (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Talez on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 05:41:24 AM EST

I hate to sound "holier than thou" but honestly, your zoo sucks. I dare say that your local community doesn't support it much either, else it might be able to upgrade its facilities to something a little better. I have to ask, is your zoo for-profit or government run because I have to say, this reeks of commerical exploitation and concern only for the bottom line.

I live in a little city called Perth. You should come visit the Perth Zoological Gardens next time you stop by to see how a real zoo is run.

The zoo is very community involved. You can adopt animals for reasonable fees, make donations, hold corporate functions, listen to the keeper talks, animal feeding times are all well documented as well as strong support for primary and high school groups doing research.

The zoo also has construction going on almost constantly. They upgrade and refurbish different parts of the zoo as they can afford to.

One thing you might like is how well the zoos look after the lions. A while ago, our zoo decided to recreate an african savannah with the aim of making the animals feel more "at home". As well as creating this whole new habitat, they also started a program of contraception for the lionesses. This allowed the families to be seen together without risk of any in-breeding or uncontrolled preganacies which would risk the survival or comfort of the existing lions.

If you want to find out more, visit http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au

By the way, -1 for making such an sweeping generalisation. Instead of slandering all zoos for being depressing, why don't you raise awareness in your OWN backyard.


Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
no not exactly true (4.66 / 3) (#33)
by Ender Ryan on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 03:10:29 PM EST

Your zoo sucks, plain and simple.

I went to a zoo recently. It wasn't that greatest, but it was pretty good. The animals seemed pretty "at home". Unlike some other places I've seen, the animals actually seemed pretty happy.

There was the polar bear. He was a trip! He had a huge enviornment to live in, but a huge part of it was easily viewable. But he also had enough space that he could get away from all the people if he wanted. But he didn't seem to want to. He had this big toy, shaped like an hour glass that he was enjoying tossing around. When he approached his exhibit, he came over to us. We were separated by a 15ft wall that dropped into the water he was swimming in. Anyway, he brought his toy over and kept trying to throw it to us whiling floating on his back in the water. After doing that for a while, he started swimming around his enviornment doing a backstroke. He was really quite humorous.

Then there were the leopards. I've never seen big cats so active. There was a male and female, and the male kept trying to hump the female while she was trying to cuddle with him. She would have none of that, but she kept trying to cuddle, it was also quite humorous. Everyone who passed by the exhibit said (seriously), "She must have a headache!" No less than 5 different people thought the exact same thing.

Then there was the monkey family. Male, female, and a little baby monkey. The Male and Female were just chillin, picking bugs off each other, scratching each others' backs and waving at people walking by, and watching the little baby and helping him climb around the cage.

Unfortuneately, they didn't have any gorillas. Gorillas are always funny when they aren't depressed. One zoo I went to had a gorilla who was just a real joker. He would press his face against the glass and watch the people respond to him. Then he would immitate the people looking at him. It was a huge enviornment too, he didn't have to be anywhere near the people, he was just having a good time.

I think one thing that is really important is that the animals have enough space so that they can get away from the people when they want to. Given that, they seem to find us as interesting and humorous as we find them.

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This story... (1.00 / 1) (#34)
by m0rzo on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 04:05:07 PM EST

sounds like it's been written by a five year old!
My last sig was just plain offensive.
Some of them suck. (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by aphrael on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 08:13:02 PM EST

Some of them rock. There are zoos that go to a great effort to place the animals in something resembling their native habitat, grouping animals that would live near each other in the same exhibit, and providing a large amount of space to roam. There are zoos which spend huge amounts of money on programs which are designed to help threatened and endangered species come back from the brink of extinction. There are zoos which are responsible for significant research in questions like animal fertility (especially important with things like the giant pandas) or disease, and whose research is essential to the continued survival of certain species in the wild.

Do all zoos do this? No. Some zoos suck. But it seems unfair to tarnish all zoos with the bad behavior of some of their cohort.

concerning zoos... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by strider5 on Fri Jan 18, 2002 at 05:31:55 PM EST

The thing about zoos is that even though the zookeepers try to make it all realistic and pleasant for the animals, it is really just a jail for animals; a public jail where people come and gawk at you. Put yourself in the position of the animal-yes kids, its time to imagine yourself as a leopard, a giraffe, monkey or whatever you'd have it be, now imagine yourself caged up in an artificial environment where you are served 3 meals a day by humans that in the wild you rarely come in contact with. Do you think you'd act like yourself? No, you wouldn't be yourself (a monkey, zebra or whatever)because you're not in your natural environment. It WOUld get pretty depressing in there. All who want to see animals for how they really are -observe them in their natural environment not in a ready made JAIL. Watch the Discovery channel, go on a safari, then you'd be closer to seeing animals how they really are and should be: happy and free; not depressed and lifeless for want of the freedom outside of the confines of their cage, freedom into a land that is their home that they have all but forgotten from being locked up their whole lives.

Zoos are depressing | 41 comments (39 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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