I Almost Hate Zoos


If not for zoos, the panda would probably be extinct.

If not for zoos, I’d never have been able to see a fuzzy blob in a fake eucalyptus tree.

If not for a zoo I’d never have seen the saddest gorilla in the world:  Samson, at the Milwaukee Zoo from  1973 until 1981.

That visit made me hate zoos.  Sampson had a great indoor space: a dark concrete room with one ring to swing on, and no one to play with.  Walls, ceiling and floor all shiny, flat, gray concrete,  and a glass window where we could all ogle him.  Ever since I saw him, not long before he died, I saw such sadness in his eyes I decided I’d never go to a zoo again.

I say I almost hate zoos.  Zoos make me uncomfortable, and sad.  Sad that this is the only way we will ever see these animals alive.  It’s not that I don’t like zoos.  Just that they make me sad.  I feel bad for the birds caged away from the sky and freedom.  Sad for the lion who can’t run across the savannah.  I cry for the elephants’ in their tiny little enclosure. 

It’s not that I disagree with the idea of zoos.  I know they do great work toward conservation and saving animals from extinction.  I’m grateful to the foundations and charities that fund ways of saving said animals and habitat.  I have made my donations when I visited the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park three times in the last ten years.  No record I’m sure.  They are melancholy days for me, and remember, I’m a depressive.

I know the reality:  Zoos have done a lot of good toward understanding animals and their needs, and I am sure the caretakers care very much for their charges.   If not for zoos I’d never get to see an elephant, or tiger, or any of the other animals, alive, and relatively close.  I just feel sorry for the animals stuck in this cage.  No matter the size, a cage is still a cage.  I keep seeing actor Roddy McDowell as an astronaut in the old Twilight Zone episode where the he is greeted grandly, only to realize too late that he has been caged for display at a zoo.

Before you email and tell me not to be sad, be a part of the solution and donate to zoos and wildlife protection foundations.  I have given to The Gorilla Foundation, The Jane Goodall Foundation, and several charities. I cannot give every year, but I try to make a donation somewhere each year.

I would love to become member of a zoo foundation, but I can’t afford to pay for something the provides no immediate return.   WAIT!!  Before you lecture me about “getting nothing in return.”  I know what it is we lose.  We all lose when it comes to loss of habitat.  We all lose when an animal goes extinct, no matter how small.    But when you’re living on what the average American makes, you’re just trying to make sure your family doesn’t go extinct.

And I care. I care very much about the earth.  It hurts to care and not be able to do much.  Knowing you can’t give because you’re just trying to keep a roof over your head, hurts, in uncountable ways, too.   I would give more, but we’re four of us currently surviving on about $40,000 per year, and a $2200/mo mortgage. Deduct HOA fees, gasoline, and groceries.  I’ll let you do the math.  But I think you can see I don’t have a lot left over to save the elephants no matter how badly I might want to help.

5 thoughts on “I Almost Hate Zoos

  1. I know how you feel, it’s a horrible fact that without zoos and wildlife parks these poor animals may have died out years ago and they bring to the attention of the public the problems they face in the wild….but I hate to see sad animals in cages. The human race has destroyed their habitats, messed with the climate and killed them in huge numbers for some truly stupid reasons over the years.
    I wish I could save them all but have enough trouble supporting myself! xx

  2. I think that having compassion for these animals can only be construed as a very human emotion. When I think of them and also the many animals in shelters and even worse my heart aches that I can’t do more for them then contribute to the various societies that try to help them. Having said that I know it can really trouble me to think of them. I guess we feel helpless because we can’t change these things….Diane

  3. The very sad thing is that the way we have made our lives – to be so busy, so reliant on material things, and the money needed to have them – is that not only do the creatures lose out, but so does a part of us, too. Now that we are on this train, it’s hard to turn it around…it makes me sad, too 🙂

    1. That’s it exactly. Man has mucked things up so badly the only way we can save the animals is by caging them. There’s got to be a better solution than throwing more money into conservation! Money many of us don’t have to spare.

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