A Free Day At The Zoo!

Today we went to the zoo, me and my daughter and granddaughter, because it was the first Wednesday of the month and the city of San Francisco let’s any resident in for free on this day! That alone made the trip worthwhile, it’s like you know how free food always tastes better, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable day at the zoo….As usual it was an educational experience, and well worth the time…

I have to admit, I am rather ambivalent about the concept of zoos in the first place…I have mixed feelings because the latent animal activist in me wants to free all the animals; on the other hand, without zoos, inner city youth like me and my family would never have the opportunity to see in person the rare, exotic animals, like lions and tigers and bears, oh my! We would never get to witness them at all!…

Then too there is the growing trend among the zookeepers themselves to make the habitats of the animals more life like and similar to what they are in the wild…They have been expanded exponentially space wise and are much more like the environments the animals are genetically programmed for than from what they used to be just a few generations ago…

The San Francisco zoo is one of the more progressive zoos in the country, because of the large numbers of animal lovers here in the city…It is a far cry from when I was a kid and visited the Chicago zoo, it seemed like the animals were like prisoners in cages back then….In fact it can be argued that in many cases we treat the animals in the zoo better than the human prisoners in jails in many parts of the country…

San Francisco was among the leaders in the “free the elephants campaign,” to realize that there was no ethical way to keep elephants in captivity, and they released their last elephants from the zoo into a huge land preserve that keeps them safe and as near as possible to their natural environment  as possible several years ago…Elephants need large spaces to roam, and they have such large brains it always seemed to me like they were watching you with their soulful, knowing eyes when I saw them in the zoo….

Circus performers were and still are in many more unenlightened areas also loudly criticized for their harsh training methods with “bull hooks” and forcing the elephants into performing “tricks” for the audience…People’s consciousness has been raised so much recently that the outrage over such cruel and unnecessary treatment is growing, and that elephants at least are trending toward all being freed in the near future….

As a matter of fact, this is a thorny question, because at the San Francisco zoo and among many other zoos too I am sure, they are actually preserving some species from near extinction…The bald eagle exhibit at the San Francisco zoo, for example, states that they have taken in and released over 100 bald eagles in the last few years, thus moving the species from the “endangered species” list to a more normal, protective stage…

This was really heartening news, and it leads me to believe that they are doing the same thing for other species, because the sad truth is that the poachers in Africa who kill elephants and rhinos for their tusks and sell them to their buyers in the booming Asian market are the real villains here…In this case, the zoos can be regarded as conservationists rather than jailers as far as preserving certain endangered species…

In fact, that seems to be the trend of the future for zoos as we head into the future…There are constant fund raisers and animal awareness seminars here in San Francisco about this very topic, and I am confident as more people become more aware of the situation, the zoos will continue to exist, but will become much larger, more species friendly artificial environments than ever before…

The alternative is not an option, we have come too far already, and if we must have zoos, and for all the reasons I have listed above, I believe that in truth we must maintain our system of zoos, we must also strive to make them as near to the actual animal environment as possible…..

The bigger, better, and more animal friendly the zoos evolve into the better, and that way we can strike a balance between species preservation and the real need for people, especially young people, to see with their own eyes what a lion or a tiger or a bear actually looks like…Most of the animals in the zoos today are 3rd and 4th generation bred zoo animals anyway, and like the freed elephants would not necessarily fare better if they were all suddenly released anyway…

It can even be argued that the animals in captivity in the zoo are ambassadors for the majority of their species, and so in the future when the animal activists approach the young people of today for funds, they will be more amenable and aware enough to donate to the cause, as opposed to a philosophical request with no tangible memories to prompt them to save any particular species…..

Simply because the children of today have witnessed with their own eyes on their school field trips or family outings, like we did today, the living, breathing reality of all these exotic wild creatures… ……

Well in summary, although I have seemed to wander far afield from my original intentions of mere description in this blog, we had a GREAT day at the zoo! We walked for miles, we soaked up the sun, and we learned and saw more than watching Animal Planet for a month, all in one day… And today, the day we went to the zoo, is one we will be able to treasure as a family memory for years to come….

Just leave it like it is right now

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