Sunday, July 30, 2017

Photo Evidence, Zoos, and YOU

You guys, I just realized something.

I know that I have never really been firmly in the "All Zoos Are Good Zoos" camp, and I have also never been in the anti-zoo camp, either.  But generally speaking, I am pro-zoo/aquarium, provided the animals' well-being is truly the first priority, and not just a talking point we throw out to our guests.

I also like to think that I am a critical thinker in most scenarios, except at most mealtimes.  Like, some people lose their inhibitions after a certain amount of alcohol is consumed, but pretty much the sight of mac and cheese renders me completely unable to process any further external stimuli.

But I digress.  In many instances, I try to take what I read with a grain of salt, even if I am of the same opinion as the author.  I am definitely not perfect at this, but I actively try.  I also feel like I am a pretty introspective person, come hell or high water.  I could do a 593-part blog series on my character flaws and still have content to write. 

So imagine my terror and surprise when I read the most recent "Check Out These Photos Of Sad Animals In Zoos" articles, thinking I would see the same-old images, and feel the same-old "yeah but..." feelings.  Except, this time, I had a totally different reaction.

Unfortunately, I realized that my entire life has been a lie.  What I thought was real, well, isn't.  In fact, as I read the article, images in my OWN life popped into my mind and I wondered, "My GOD, have I been blind to the Truth all of this time?"

Let me show you what I mean.

I thought my daughter was a human being.  But here is irrefutable photographic evidence that she is actually a candy corn.  HOW COULD I BE SO BLIND.  

Some of these Truths are not necessarily bad.  Some of them are pretty cool.  The more I searched through the photos of my life, the more I found.

Did you know I was a Ghostbuster?

Photo. Proof.

And that I am married to Chris Hemsworth?
He is the luckiest.

Oh! Oh and that I killed one of my previous coworkers?

Far right.  I'm a homicidal maniac.

I was in the Russian ballet for a while.

GOD I look good in a tiara.

Okay, let's be serious for a second.  This anti-zooish article I am talking about has some photos of things I think we would all agree are not really best practices.  Like the image of a gray seal with balloons around his exhibit?  F-

But the point of the article obviously focuses the reader's attention on a very slim perspective.  There are a lot of what I think are helpful positions on this topic, even if they are contrary to what many of us would agree with.  There are a few great rebuttals to this article, so I won't go into more depth on this topic.  But there is one photo I wanted to point out.

This is Jo-Anne McArthur's photo of a giraffe in a German zoo, located next to an Ikea.
It's hard to reason that, ideally, a captive giraffe would have nothing but savannah to look at in his/her top-notch zoo exhibit.  Or, like other fantastic zoos without limitless funds, have a great exhibit surrounded by native trees.  But the fact is, animals in the wild encounter manmade shenanigans all the time....and usually in a sinister setting.   That is not to say that one should change their opinion based on ONE photo, but I think all of us animal lovers (pro-zoo or not) could agree that there is a serious need for conservation outreach....the majority of which happens in zoos.

The famous (infamous?) photo of wild orcas with a delightful industrial backdrop

Many of us know that the facilities we work at or support do literally everything possible to ensure the animals under our care live happy, healthy lives.   Many of us get really upset when we see articles showing unfavorable aspects of our (well, now YOUR) livelihood and life's work. 

But instead of just rebutting the article, or sharing it on Facebook, we can't stop there.  We also can't immediately reject these kinds of opinions, because there is an element of truth to them in some situations.  We are concerned with animal rights activists taking hold of our field and destroying it.  But I think many of us also know that not all zoos are created equally.  Some of us work in places that we know needs change, but are too afraid (or exhausted) to bring up our ideas. 

Use the negative press as a catalyst for debate amongst OURSELVES.  We do not need to be united on every aspect; we need the freedom to engage in thoughtful critique of our animal management methodologies, exhibit design, training philosophy, and staff development.  The places that do some or all of these things well often have a lot to contribute.  The places that do not have these things well-organized often are chalk full of passionate, intelligent zookeepers just bursting at the seams to implement some amazingly positive change.  We are already pro-zoo, but that doesn't mean we are anti-change.  Talk to each other.

Whoa. Got a little heavy there, didn't it? 

Let's leave it on some more AMAZING and NEVER BEFORE SEEN photographs that will just totally turn your world upside-down.

You're welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Any chance of Sharing the a link to the article you were talking about?