The Zoo Within

This post stems from the Thought Ripples over on Two Voices, One Song. Sometimes when you change a process for one thing, it sticks and bleeds over into other work, as well. That’s what happened here. I hope you enjoy it.

Once in a while, I take a trip through a zoo or sanctuary. While I gaze upon the residents within the confines of the area, taking note of mundane considerations, my mind focuses on the what-might-have-beens. Those are the natural landscapes and living conditions of whatever animal I’m viewing.

Take this guy, for instance. He was brought into man’s arena very early in his life. He worked for a living, hence his missing horn. And when his work was done, he was fortunate enough to find sanctuary on the Olympic Peninsula with other animal actors that had been retired.

He’s a sweetheart, who likes treats and people’s voices. He’s enclosed to keep him safe from those who would taunt and tease and stress him unduly. I think it’s sad that we have lock up the wild things to keep them safe from us, the civilized ones.

Because he’d not been allowed to be wild, he will never know his ancestors’ natural habitat. Then again, at least here he can live a peaceful existence without fear of someone taking his life, as well as his horn. And without his horn, he could have never survived in his natural habitat anyway.

Herds of elk and fallow deer have free run of many more acres of this wild animal park. The bison keep them company as they watch cars go by, occupants snapping and whirring with their cameras. Thankfully, no one can get out of their cars to aggravate the ones trying to eat or rest.

Peacocks keep order. Rabbits watch from the sidelines. Those in the petting zoo take little hands in stride. And everywhere are the sounds of human voices, rather than those of the residents.

Within the shadows cast by trees lurk yaks and zebras, not usual neighbors, though they seem to get along quite well.

The occasional small scene gives an idyllic glimpse of how life in the wild could be if allowed.

Throughout this day of animal watching and speculation of natural wild habitats ruined in the name of progress, I rediscovered something about myself that I hadn’t visited in a long while. My acceptance of zoos hasn’t increased any as I got older. I loved them when I was in my early twenties. That’s no longer the case.

Yet, while I can’t appreciate them as I once did, I no longer condemn them as I would have ten years ago. I’ve reached a compromise of sorts within myself. In an ideal world man and animal would live in harmony, each to his natural habitat, without concern that one would threaten or become a nuisance to the other.

Sanctuaries and zoos have their place now in our world, whether we want it that way or not. These providers of safety and species continuation may be the only hope wildlife has against the destruction of their homelands. I can’t guess at the future of Earth’s wildlife. I can only work to appreciate it at each opportunity, without stressing it any further or helping to wipe it out by my own life process.

I appreciate those who dedicate their lives to safeguarding species other than humans. I applaud their efforts, knowing that life could have been mine. Many years ago at the San Diego Zoo, I was given that opportunity. My reason for rejecting the offer was spurious to say the least; giving up a lucrative job was out of the question right then.

The truth was that such a change at that time in my life scared me silly. My life was still being ruled by other people. That didn’t change until recently. Would I reconsider if given that same offer again? Probably not, but not for the same reason.

Living the life meant for me now, there is no reason to go back. The last major thought to zip through my mind while thinking of zoos and sanctuaries is this. Do humans not do for and to themselves what they’ve done to those creatures of the wild?

In building our civilizations, our cities, our doctrines, have we not built ourselves into a planet-wide zoo in an attempt to preserve our species for something greater; and in doing so, trapped ourselves within, locking the doors against all but the best of locksmiths?

A bientot,

Claudsy

Note:** All photos Courtesy of BJ Jones Photography

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  1. June 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Claudsy, your last lines are so lovely and so true. I always want to visit these places, (my favorite is Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire), but truly what I want is for it to not be…you know, not set the animals free, but for them to have been free, wild and protected in the first place. (also would like to have a few million $ so I could buy acres and acres of meadow and set all the asphalt walking carriage horses of the world’s tourist trade free.) ( I know, I have a pink fluffy heart)

  2. claudsy
    June 26, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Veronica, I think big pink, fluffy hearts are very good things. I understand how you feel. I have a real problem just walking into a zoo. Sanctuaries are a bit different simply because they are there to protect those that can no long protect themselves from us and can’t return to the wild.

    It’s sad all the way around. Glad to know I’m not alone. Glad you liked it.

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