Filed under: J500 Week 12, Justice + Outreach, Local Events + Action, Nature + Travel, Society + Media | Tags: animal rights, childhood memories, Environmental Stewardship, PETA, Topeka, Zoos
I open myself to teasing sometimes, and I’m perfectly fine with that. When I received an onslaught of jabs from friends about a month ago over Facebook for my fascination with the application/game Zoo World. For the uninitiated, Zoo World is like Farmville, but for cool people, but I digress.
I and most kids I knew growing up loved the real life zoo. When you are nine years old, a zoo seems like a magical place with strange creatures that you don’t get to see anywhere else. With that sense of juvenile wonderment, you don’t really consider that the place with the animals is still run by people who are prone to mistakes and bad habits.
Even I tended not to consider this fact, having not been to my hometown’s self-proclaimed “World Famous” Topeka Zoo in several years. The zoo had clearly lost its luster some time ago, having lost national accreditation almost a decade ago due to mistreatment of animals, something which was supposedly rectified a few years later. Sadly, one of my occasional trips to the Topeka-Capital Journal’s website (nostalgia, I suppose) revealed this to not be true. A few offenses listed include poor safety procedures to both keep people protected from dangerous animals, and vice versa; elephants not having their feet examined on a regular basis; and a hippopotamus not being allowed in its pool for periods of up to eight hours, extremely difficult for an animal that has no sweat glands and is accustomed to spending most of its time in or near water to keep cool.
Environmental stewardship can mean a lot of things. We tend to think about recycling, energy use, land conservation, etc. as ways of protecting our planet, but we all have to learn the value of it sometime. To give somebody, a child or otherwise, some sense of a connection to the world outside of their hometown, it is well and good to stir their imagination with examples of the wondrous things they can find hidden in the trees. This is why I still believe in zoos as valuable to communities, and why I would like to see the one I used to love as a kid hold a higher standing than it apparently does now. It infuriates me to no end that PETA might be on to something when they refer to zoos as “pitiful prisons“, partially because PETA in general annoys me, but if we can’t maintain the wildlife (a term I suppose I’m using loosely here) we use to exemplify the more amazing aspects of nature, we really can’t expect people to understand the value of protecting it.
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