TO ZOO OR NOT TO ZOO - A CONUNDRUM
SHOULD WE KEEP ANIMALS IN ZOOS? A long time ago a friend of mine shocked me to consciousness by challenging my notion of a pleasant Sunday afternoon - taking my toddler son to Johannesburg zoo to see the Polar Bear in its new 5 star quarters. She was the first anti-zoo activist I ever met, and the last. But she was also old-school Greek (a plastic eye to ward off evil as a baby shower gift) and the kind of vegetarian that could reel off a list of products you shouldn't be using because they were made with harpooned whale blubber. Still, in many ways her objections struck me as legitimate and reasonable. Ever since then I've been conflicted about the answer to the tautological existential crisis of earth's sentient beings. Better to die out as a species unfettered and untamed, or to persist with existence and lose one's capacity for survival and self-sufficiency?
A few weeks ago Panjo, a 17-month old Bengal tiger who went missing in Mpumalanga in South Africa was saved from a terrible fate. In one one of those twists of circumstances that feed humanity's voracious appetite for the unexpected, Panjo the pet tiger - whose owner Goosey Fernandes wept on national radio - was tracked down by a hunting dog trained to hunt predators - but who had never hunted a tiger - and came out of the bushes purring with joy at the sight of his owner.
A week before Panjo's dramatic rescue William the baboon, a 14-year-old alpha male of the Groot Olifantbos troop, was killed by lethal injection. Would it have made a difference if Jenni Trethowan, self-appointed defender of the baboon nation, had gone on national radio and wept?
Methinks not. We have grown accustomed to her accusing voice.
In the Panjo saga we sensed something novel - the possibility for redemption in the midst of the wholesale slaughter that has always accompanied the expansion of our kind. William was expendable because we couldn't safely lock him away. Panjo made us feel that we humans aren't really that bad; co-existence between species is tricky but achievable.
I grew up in a village called Felixton in KZN where practically every breadwinner was involved in paper or sugar production. When we were children there were so many frogs croaking and jumping, and mosquitos whining and dining, and translucent geckos clinging to surfaces, that outside doors and windows were all fitted with netting that required constant maintenance. At night doorsteps would fill with plump croaking frogs drawn to the lights, and we'd stumble over heaps of living hopping frogs if we had to cross the threshold into the hot humid Zululand darkness. By the time I went to university wading through frogs was a distant memory. Today an occasional croak from the darkness is all that remains. Mosquitos are more resilientit seems.
You could say one shouldn't over-dramatise an infinitesimal event in an infinite universe, that we are all William the baboon in one way or another. Destined to die from the minute we are born. You could say that how we die is unimportant. I'm hoping William had fun while he was here; made hay while the sun shone so to speak. But to be killed by one's fellow earthlings as an act of punishment and retribution seems a small-minded act, less than civilised. What was William the conqueror's last thought as they held him down?
Did he feel betrayed by his hairless brothers and sisters?
That's the thing about the intentional killing of a defenceless animal by a single human being or a bunch of human beings. It smacks of a lack of civilisation, regardless of the excellent reasons given.
I wonder what my friend who was against zoos would have had to say about Panjo the tiger, pampered predator who purrs and cat-attacks with the gentle insouciance of a household cat, his claws shielded, his savage inclinations tempered. She'd probably challenge me in her outspoken way on the name of this page. But I've decided to stick with it. 'Zoo Zone' is not only pithy, alliterative, metaphorical and provocative, but it also suggests the possibility of ethical custodianship and secure habitat.With climate change an encroaching reality, soaring population figures increasing the competition for ever-scarcer resources, social, economic and political turmoil on an unprecedented scale, and carnage and pillage our staple news, something isn't working on our planet.
Have we forgotten how to exercise free will and stand up for each other? Aren't most of us tame shadows of our wilder selves? Aren't we all living in a zoo, albeit one of our own making? But there's a certain advantage to that too; we humans are in the unique situation of being both zoo keeper and zoo animal; how we handle that delicate balancing act can change our future. We can practice responsible curatorship and make our planet a better place.
Lest we should forget...
2010/07/29 09:49:13 AM H: Spare a thought for those Tigers killed in Asia for their prized coats......they are captured but NOT shot as the poachers do not want to damage the skin with a bullet hole.....rather they stick a HOT poker into the Tiger's rear end, vagina in the case of females, to slowly but surely kill the animal to keep the skin intact.....it is slow agonising death....
Boy's tragic rhino story moves classmates
Sello Kolensie's speech to his Grade 3 class, depicting a mock conversation between a rhino and her calf at the Krugersdorp Game Reserve just before poachers kill her, almost reduced them to tears.
...Last week, a gang of poachers struck the game reserve - their target the last remaining adult rhino at the reserve. They sawed off her horn before she bled to death.
In the speech, the rhino tells her calf how happy she is that they live in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve. The calf replies that he is so happy he is with his mother and that he drinks her milk. Suddenly, the mother sees armed men arrive and urges her calf to run away to the bush and hide away. Her calf replies that he is scared and worried the armed men are going to kill them. Then, she tells him that she has been shot and that he must run to save his life. He sees the poachers chopping off his mother's horn and exclaims at how she is bleeding. She replies: "I'm going to bleed to death. I love you."
~ ~ ~
Square-Lipped >> White Rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum >>
Hook-Lipped >> Black Rhinoceros
"Cold Comfort for Penguin Lovers
Anglers are left reeling after legendary carp dies aged 45
He was the fish everyone wanted to catch, a legendary carp notorious for his huge size and wily nature... at 68lb was Britain's biggest freshwater fish...the massive carp was even said to have broken up marriages due to the amount of time fishermen spent in pursuit of him... nicknamed Two Tone, was found floating dead on the surface of the Kent lake where he lived... believed to have died of natural causes... only gave himself up once or twice a year.
|The Book - Kalk Bay - Mexico - The Author - Reviews - Gallery - Noticeboard - Links - Bookshops - Book Clubs - Features - Books - Poems - Movies - Art - Digital Life - Teen Talk - Rites & Rituals - Guest Column - In Memoriam - World Obituaries - Zoo Zone - Orders - Writers - Competitions - Residencies - Retreats - Markets - Guidelines|
|†† All Content Copyright © 2008 by Consuelo Roland ††|