Our survival as a species

Observing the chimpanzee

I have mixed feelings about zoos. I realize that ‘conservation of wildlife’ is a complex, messy issue – oh we could go on for days! Nothing about it is black and white. So if you asked me why we signed up for an annual family membership at the San Francisco Zoo last weekend, it would take me a long time to answer… and I’d probably just direct you to this photo of my eldest son peacefully observing and drawing a chimpanzee in his always present sketchbook.

The other reason (uh, besides my younger son) would be the SF Zoo’s Koret Animal Resource Center. Here it’s all about youth volunteers and educational outreach. And, okay… the chance to get up close yet respectful to a young alligator, a native San Francisco garter snake, a friendly rescued ferret, and many other non-human creatures in need of love and appreciation. The kids who are part of this program offer me hope that maybe the world will not turn out quite so mean-spirited as it sometimes seems.

Now back to harsh reality: the rest of the zoo. I never knew I was such a misanthrope, but one thing that really bummed me out were the unwashed masses who spent more time screeching at each other in loud voices, smoking, littering, and stuffing their faces with cotton candy than actually connecting with wildlife, or even each other. Heh. And I thought movie theaters these days were bad!

3 Comments so far

  1. Nancy (unregistered) on November 6th, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

    I love that photo. That pretty much sums up what I’d say is that ‘golden’ parent moment – when you get a view of the unique individual that you’re cultivating, and they’re, well, cool.

    I loved the Honolulu Zoo, growing up. There were so many (now outdated) settings that let you get into a bit of the animal’s environment (a spiral staircase to a bridge where the giraffes could walk right up to you, eye to eye, or a one-way smoked glass window in the barn loft so you could see the owls with their heads twisted 180^) I’m with you on the philosophical dilemmas of caged animals, but we do learn so much from them, about them, and about ourselves.

  2. Matt R. (unregistered) on November 7th, 2006 @ 6:30 am

    We, too, bought a family membership to the zoo earlier this year. No doubt for our daughter that the zoo is fun and also educational, and makes her connect to the images she sees on TV and in books.

    Some of the animals at SF Zoo are in habitats instead of caged (e.g., the African savannah), but it’s still a bit hard to see the big cats and the bears in the old concrete jungle. The children’s petting farm, the carousel, and the century-old steam engine are all great times there. The top-of-the-line primates, though, I have to agree with Bradley on his misanthropic missive.

    We were at Honolulu Zoo last year, Nancy, and they are making a lot of habitat improvements to it.

  3. Nancy (unregistered) on November 8th, 2006 @ 12:48 am

    Earlier this year I visited the Palm Springs Living Desert and was totally captivated by the habitats created there. (Well, except for the cheetah, which proves my sensitivity towards the un-leashed park areas of SF, I agree that some animals need freedom to run, but I still believe that THAT need can’t override civic sanctions or priorities.)

    I guess I never outgrew my fascination with other species. I often look at my domesticated maine coone cat and wonder if, given the chance, she’d ‘domesticate’ me.

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