It’s easy to see why the San Diego Zoo is named one of the best Zoos in the world. With its large enclosures housing some of the world’s most endangered species and creative ways of informing the public of conservation issues, it’s definitely leading the way in promoting animal and habitat protection awareness. But walking around the Zoo, I can’t help but feel a little sad for the animals. Yes they are alive, instead of being poached for their fur, tusks, sperm by hunters or for weird medicinal purposes, but it still doesn’t seem right.
Watching a leopard pace around its enclosure, we stood behind the railing a few metres away from the fencing. ”Warning, stay clear of the leopard’s spray.” Leopard’s spray? Then we watched as the leopard started to urinate, the man closest trying to take a photo jumped back slightly. Ah, leopard’s spray! In the wild you would never be able to get so close to such a moment. But seeing animals in the wild provides you with a completely different experience. In the wild, you are entering their world. If you are lucky they will come out and let you see them going about their daily life. In a zoo, they are just there. It takes away some of the magic of seeing rare, exotic, wild animals, seeing them fenced in.
The elephants stand huddled around the metal grill of the hay feeder. Slowly pulling out small clumps of straw and gently rocking with the effort of ripping another bundle from the feeder. For all the expense and effort the Zoo has gone to in creating world-class enclosures that stimulate the animals and trainers that plan play and feeding activities to engage the animals, they still appear to be bored out of their minds. A bonobo monkey lies forlornly on a piece of rock, two of her bonobo mates sit at either end of her, protectively keeping watch. They look nothing like the lively bonobo monkey’s I’ve seen in YouTube clips. Documentaries of screeching playful monkeys. Monkeys that are highly social creatures, that love to play and run and pick things off each other. Maybe this bonobo monkey was just having a bad day.
Without places like the San Diego Zoo though, hundreds of thousands of people would be none the wiser to the plight of many of these endangered animals. The zoo plays a vital role in protecting and conserving the animals still in the wild, by educating the public about each animals habitat and how the human impact is affecting the survival of many species. For many people, this will be the closest they ever come to seeing some wild animals. I’m lucky I guess. I’ve been on Safari and visit wild life sanctuaries or seen animals in their natural habitat in other countries around the world and once you’ve had this experience, seeing animals in the zoo just doesn’t cut it.