We Went to the Zoo!

Okay so I love the zoo. I don't like big activities or busy days, but I have always had a strange affinity for the zoo. However, as I grow older and absolutely not wiser, I realize more acutely that the zoo is complicated. You go and you get to see elephants, sloth bears, kangaroos, and fish that you can't for the life of you remember the names of. While you’re glowing over the glory of the gorillas, you realize what you’re actually doing. You see the cages where there should be open air and the concrete where there should be mountains. They’re monkeys so you can't totally tell what they're thinking, but they look kind of sad to you. Of course, you’re probably just anthropomorphizing the hell out of them. Honestly, though, what animal wants to be kept in a cage, living in an enclosure? The Columbus Zoo has an “Asian Quest” section, a winding path that leads you through all the noteworthy animals from Asia that this zoo has to offer. The tigers are the big attraction so there are all these signs pumping you up for them throughout. When you walk into one of the indoor areas, there are stone statues of all the different kinds of tigers. You notice that some of the statues look like they have been partially knocked away and that there are only the feet of the tiger left. These are the extinct tigers, the subspecies that have been erased.

Conservation is a theme that runs through the whole zoo, with signs everywhere asking visitors to protect the animals. I appreciated that it was keeping me aware of what I was doing while I was enjoying it. It did have an odd effect on my experience and I kind of had to choose whether I wanted to integrate it or ignore it. No matter what, I give props to the Columbus Zoo for not being afraid to keep us honest. The zoo raises a lot of hard-to-answer questions about animal rights, the commercialization of nature, and the treatment of our planet. The natural habitat of some of these animals has been destroyed, or is no longer safe for them to live. A well-kept zoo, then, might be the safer option for them. Some animals are released back into the wild after they’ve been healed from injury or sickness. Is that evidence of humans interfering with nature too much? These animals are wild and zoos are certainly not. But we’re saving them? But we’re they’re the reason they need saving? It’s complicated, like I said, and I didn't come to any conclusions while there. But I am glad that I started to think about these issues. I had a great time at the zoo. It was a beautiful day, I was with someone I am exceedingly fond of, and I got to look at sleeping koala bears. I didn't get a giant plush shark, for good reason probably. By the end of it, I was tired and my feet hurt, but ultimately, it was a great Sunday. I felt a little guilty about being so happy at a place with rather questionable intentions and I felt a little guilty about not wanting to kill my good vibes with actual, real life concerns. I don't know what’s more appropriate, because I’m a big advocate of self care and of empathy. Don't blame yourself for the ills of the world, but don't absolve yourself from humanity’s damaging effect on the earth. Be conscious of the issues you’re facing while you ogle over the grizzly bears and recycle.

 

Image Credit: Feature, Lily Alig