Friday, May 20, 2005

Zoo stories

I'm not a huge fan of zoos. The one in Delhi suffers from a lack of imagination and facilities--and if you think that zoos justify their existence by introducing the general public to the concept of kindness towards animals, you don't know the capital. People poke sticks through the bars at sleeping animals, offer them everything from matchsticks to lit cigarettes to plastic bags and razorblades. You're actually glad for the bars, because they offer the animals some sort of protection against the maraudings of homo sapiens.
And zoos in India don't seem to understand the idea of co-operation; there's little sense that they're trading knowledge. Or anything else. These lionesses at Trivandrum Zoo need a mate, but the zoo director complains that other Indian zoos aren't co-operative. And even though I dislike the idea of zoos, I had to smile when I saw this quote:
"In the zoo we can see everywhere the pairs, such as the visitors themselves, like husband and wives and lovers. But in the case of the animals, they do not have the pairs. It is very sad. Even the lionesses are very sad."
Interspecies empathy just got a major boost, yes?

5 Comments:

Blogger Sunil said...

I wasn't a fan of zoos in India, and hated zoos (i saw caged peacocks in Bannerghatta, and free wild ones roaming just outside the peacock cage, talk about absurd!), but i've changed some opinions since then.

The phoenix zoo (Arizona) is fantastic, and served as a breeding center for the Arabian Onyx, which could then be reintroduced into Arabia (where it was almost extinct). The Seattle woodland park zoo has a fantastic rescue center for raptors, and the educational services these zoos provide are sometimes phenomenal. If zoos are like these, then they serve an all important purpose of educating the public about wildlife, ecosystems, habitats, and conservation. These zoos have a place.......

1:01 PM  
Blogger Hurree said...

Yup, there's a gulf between the old-style model of zoos--animals in cages for the entertainment of humans--and the more recent attempts to combine the functions of parks, conservation areas and breeding centres in some modern zoos.
There's an interesting debate on zoos over here:
http://www.bornfree.org.uk/zoocheck/zoodebate.shtml
I have to say that while I think Born Free's objectives are what we should be working towards--a world where animals don't have to be incarcerated--Miranda makes a strong argument for the need for "good zoos" and the role they can play in conservation.
In India, where sanctuaries are often at the mercy of political point-scorers who have no interest in the preservation of wildlife and its surrounding habitat, zoo reform could be one way forward. I hate the fact that zoos here don't seem to have learned anything from conservation efforts elsewhere, and that the focus is still on making the animals "perform" for the public rather than on seeing to it that the needs of animals are met.
Thanks for citing these models, though, much appreciated.

1:41 AM  
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