Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Thursday, December 09, 2004
i'm against zoos.
a very sad story out of the calgary zoo today. a baby asian elephant, about a week old, died yesterday from an infection. its mother had rejected it after giving birth, probably denying it of critical antibodies found in it's mother's milk.
why am i against zoos? in cases like this where breeding programs result in rejection of offspring. the elephant keeper at the zoo professed that "she's [the mother elephant] never had a baby before, never seen a baby before, doesn't know what it is," said [the keeper]. "When this baby came out of her, she had no idea what this big thing was that dropped out of her and she was very afraid."
do rejections occur in the "real" world? more than likely i guess. i'm not sure of the statistics or of any such studies though. however, according to carol buckley of "elephant sanctuary", a "naturalistic sanctuary" in tennessee, "in the wild, female elephants live in extended matriarchal herds. There's a lot of knowledge passed down from individual to individual. Many elephants are able to help in the whole rearing and birthing process. In captivity we don't have those situations."
the argument that this event would not have happened in the "real" world because of habitat destruction and other human transgressions still doesn't justify having captive animals.
extinction of species (elephants and homo sapiens included) throughout evolutionary history is inevitable. conversely, new speciation events occur simultaneously and fill niches left by elephants. it sounds harsh but it's enough justification to discontinue zoos.
there is hope out there. i've seen excellent examples of conservation in east africa. until recently, there was chain of 13 new national parks created in gabon in west africa. inspired by michael fay, of national geographic fame, these parks encompass 11 percent of gabon's landmass.
having cited these examples, worldwide conservation of critical ecosystems is pathetic at best. the best case scenario is that we could preserve vast tracts of land, saving valuable features such as migration routes (eg. the yellowstone to yukon project with regards to grizzly bear migration). the worse case scenario is the preservation of isolated tracts or "islands" of habitat (eg. national parks).
either way, we should focus our efforts on conservation of habitat rather than using zoos as "genetic holding pens".
as for education, zoos are inexcusable proxies for the real thing. there is such a gaping disconnect between people and "nature" these days. just go out and witness "nature" for yourself whether that's in our own backyard or africa.
when i heard of the baby elephant's death, i had mixed feelings. i was sad at first. but then i was happy for it just because it wouldn't have to spend anymore time in a zoo.