Saturday, December 18, 2010

The irrelevance of zoos


Zoos have always had nothing to do about wildlife and our environment and much to do about entertainment.  We might be able to pick out some useful facts about wildlife and get the public to learn about wildlife, but wild animals are best left where they are. 

An animal’s existence and its environment are one.  Remove an animal from its environment and put it in a zoo and you have an isolated fragment of an environment staring back at you from a cage.  Animals shape and are shaped by their environment and have no meaning in a zoo. 

Even if you hold that we can preserve animals as we overdevelop our environment so we can bring them back when their numbers get low, this reasoning ignores Climate Change.  The chance of an animal being able to return to the environment it evolved in is even more remote because Climate Change will have further changed its environment to one that the animal may not survive in at all. 

Far better than the money spent on zoos, where animals remain but curiosities, it would be prudent to use that money to preserve the environment from which they came. 

And, as far as zoo being learning centers for the public on our environment and wildlife, that is a delusion.  What we should be doing, instead of all this fascination with zoos and how their inhabitants are dealing with old age (a luxury they rarely experience in the wild), is preserve our dwindling untouched environments and perhaps view wildlife through cameras or webcams where viewers in a cold northern city can learn how tropical monkeys are vital to the environment they helped create and how vital their environment are to them. 

Our present state of zoos, isolation chambers for the ecologically disenfranchised, have no meaning in the modern world except as strange artifacts of earlier times. 

Zoos teach us the worst possible lesson we can learn about our environment: that we can remove it, isolate it, and go on with our lives indifferent to our environment.   We cannot.

 Aging animals on the rise at Seneca Park Zoo | | Democrat and Chronicle Among the active, spry animals at the Seneca Park Zoo lives a considerable population of senior residents. You might not spot them at first. But the black and white ruffed lemurs, ages 16 and 25, have step stools in their exhibit to help with climbing. And the spider monkeys, ages 35, 36 and 38, have teeth so worn that their fruit must be peeled and their monkey chow soaked in Tang or juice to soften it before eating.  (December 18, 2010) | Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

1 comment:

revere said...

I agree with you completely on what your write. Regarding the 'preservation of species' argument; heck, we can ( and people are ) gather DNA of the animals for future generations to recreate the species. Of course, this does nothing to preserve their learned interaction in their population. I think zoos delude people into thinking, "oh, things are ok, here are living animals", when the reality is the ecosystem is being thrashed.
One area I would like an opinion on, do animal care centers provide some utility, for animals with an injury that would not allow them survival in the wild?