Friday, May 13, 2011

More than this

I have this thing about zoos. I am drawn to animals like Mexicans to tortillas or Seattle-ites to good coffee. Animals fascinate me. Their adaptability and strength to survive amaze me, and at the same time, their relative vulnerability to domination by us humans at times saddens me. We humans can be a bit like that little kid who sees her wounded kitty cat and picks it up beneath its armpits, lugging it around so sincerely to find help for her pet, and in the process, unintentionally injures it further.

When I'm at the zoo, it's bittersweet. I hate to be overdramatic, but after oohing and ahhing over the beautiful animals that I don't get to see naturally in these parts, I begin to feel something akin to voyeurism. Like I'm peeking in on a bunch of prisoners. I understand that they are extremely well fed and well cared for. In terms of care, there aren't many animals who live better lives than these. I know the people who care for them are passionate about what they do, and I know that many animals are in zoos in part as a response to a much larger problem. But it doesn't take away from the reality that penguins weren't designed to live in a tank of luke warm water, mountain goats long to roam in real mountains, and brown bears want more than an acre or two of land to inhabit.

When I saw the majestic mountain goat recently, he was breathtaking. I couldn't stop staring at his beauty, and I couldn't help but feel his sadness. This was not really his home. A lovely, artificial home for sure, but not home. I peered down at a little brown fox in the same vicinity as the mountain goat. He was sitting on his haunches in a corner of his caged area. I could be reading too much into this, but to me, it appeared as if he sat with his head down, a little dejected. After a few minutes, he got up and slowly saundered up the manmade trail in the manmade mountainside, his bushy tail drooping behind him.

I'm not trying to be a downer about zoos, I'm really not. I was just thinking about freedom today, and how these animals that were designed to be free, for whatever multitude of complex or simple reasons, are not living as they were intended. In some ways, we are not that different from them. As comfortable, well fed and relatively safe we might be in our manmade environments, there must be more than this.

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