Zoos: No Longer Something For Me

I can’t recall the last time that I went to a zoo. It’s been a while. I think the last time was a visit to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. This is an open style zoo: barriers are in place to keep the animals and the humans safe, but they are largely unobtrusive, and give the impression of relative freedom, even if this is on a limited scale.

Spotted tail quoll
Spotted-tail quoll

During a visit to Launceston, I had a wander through the Tasmania Zoo. It is home to many varieties of animals that I wouldn’t expect to see in the middle of a small island, such as camels, lions and tigers. It was a bit of a hike to get there, and I travelled there through the aptly named Meander Valley. As I got out of the car, I could hear sulphur-crested cockatoos swirling above, along with a mixed medley of other bird and animal calls. I paid my entry fee and had a wander about.

Wombat
Wombat

The extensive collection of caged birds began at the entrance. There was the element of novelty initially – how wonderful to see birds that to date I have only seen in books, such as zebra and Gouldian finches. But this novelty soon wore off. Seeing the glorious red-tailed black cockatoos clinging to the chicken wire netting was unsettling. By the time I saw the galahs, sulphur-crested cockatoos and long-billed corellas, I’d had enough. Seeing the beautiful Australian king parrots in cages nearly made me cry. They are a gloriously frequent sight in the Blue Mountains and other parts of the mainland: bright, bold and cheeky.

Carnaby's black cockatoo
Carnaby’s black cockatoo

There was a camel, just the one, on site. I passed by the growling, hissing, spitting, fussing and fighting Tasmanian devils, who had just been fed and were busy crunching on something feathered (it really was time for me to leave). A highlight was a pair of wombats, very sweet to look at in their lumbering kind of way. And I detoured to see a short-beaked echidna snuffling with great intent before raising its beak. I was surprised to see a red panda moving about an enclosure. Apparently, they were discovered before the black and white pandas that we usually think of these days.

Tasmanian devil
Tasmanian devil

There were small family groups walking around the park, and I’m sure it’s a great way for kids to learn about animals and birds and the like, but I found the whole experience unsettling.

It may be a reflection of the changes within me more than anything else as the birds and animals were cared for. I feel such pleasure in spotting birds in the wild, watching them in adaptive capacities in areas filled with people, and seeing them go about their own thing. Seeing them caged along with animals was just too much for me on the day.

Red panda
Red panda

Zoos have an important role to play in conservation and education, but I won’t be heading back to one anytime soon.

When was the last time you visited a zoo?

[Photo: short-beaked echidna]

11 thoughts on “Zoos: No Longer Something For Me

  1. It’s been quite some time and I had much the same reaction as you. While the animals were undoubtedly well cared for, they were not in their natural habitats. Seeing them in glass or mesh enclosures, or behind bars, was very depressing. We have a few animal parks where the animals roam freely (within a huge fenced park) and the people are in enclosed carriages driving through. Better…but still I am uncomfortable with the notion of cloistering animals for human entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Donna. It is good to know that I wasn’t alone in my reaction. It is hard to have a happy medium between wanting to observe and know more about animals and limiting their freedom.
      Also, I have (finally!) bought your book and am looking forward to reading it over the Christmas break to set me up for a kinder year ahead ☺️

      Like

  2. Our family is done with zoos. It’s too easy to spot the repetitive behaviors of animals meant to roam hundreds of miles, pacing back and forth in cages. When we’re on the road now, we visit animal rehab centers – still educational, but also much of their mission is for release back into the wild. It also encapsulates the dangers that humans pose to animals (so often injuries are due to man made calamities).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Your post reminded me of James McBride, book Five-Carat Soul. I think you would enjoy the short story about how zoo animals get revenge. To answer your question it’s been a while since I last visited one, but I think it has more to do with parking and the admission fee.

    Liked by 1 person

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