Every child loves going to the zoo – it’s a childhood tradition. Parents want to expose their kids to wonderful adventures, to broaden their minds. That’s the reason they go to the zoo. These children get the chance to see animals they would most likely never see in their lifetime, unless the parent was wealthy enough to travel to all corners of the globe in search of That Elusive Species.
But what are parents really exposing their children to? I recently visited the Los Angeles zoo. I did this because I know that celebrity Betty White is on the board of directors and is an animals rights’ activist. I thought I would be visiting more of a sanctuary than a zoo. I was excited to see the new elephant enclosure, as it is one that is supposedly the best in the country. When I arrived I was quickly reminded why I don’t enjoy visiting zoos.
The L.A. Zoo is beautiful, the weather is generally flawless, and the animals are diverse. Most boast of being “the last of their kind,” and they house several “almost extinct” animals. That part of zoos I do enjoy. To me, they are a necessary evil. Yes, despite the fact that these animals are in cages, and out of their natural habitat and climate, they are safe from poachers.
As I walked to the elephant enclosure, the first sound I heard was the snapping of the electric fence. I saw one male elephant standing there. He made his way over to a trainer, who threw him some cucumbers and then he sauntered back to wait by his door. I walked further on and saw that two female elephants were kept on the other side of the very large enclosure. One female was constantly bobbing her head, and as I saw this, I remembered that hearing this is a sometimes-present neurological behavior in captive elephants. I was saddened by her behavior and upset that they were being kept apart. I have a deep love and affinity for all animals, but I feel especially connected to elephants.
I walked past the chimpanzee enclosure to see their area to be very crowded, and the inhabitants sat cuddled with each other, not using any of their supplied “enhancement” tools. I remember thinking, “Those straps are so close together, how can they swing at all?”
What got to me the most, and what really prompted me to write this article and do the associated research, was the Sumatran Tiger. I heard her calling from another area in the zoo, which I found to be odd as I’ve never really heard such an active tiger before. I walked to the enclosure where I saw her pacing. She was doing figure eights between her two cubs that were at separate ends of her area. I knew right away, she was looking for another cub. Calling for a lost cub, circling, counting, trying to find her lost baby. I Googled the tigers and found that six months prior to my visit, a Sumatran tiger cub did indeed die. I walked through the zoo hearing that mother calling and my heart wrenched with every call she made. There was no way that it couldn’t have been her.
I was furious, positively fuming. I immediately contacted animal experts and the L.A. Zoo itself. The first person I spoke to was Jason Jacobs of the L.A. Zoo. I jumped at the chance to ask him about the elephant behavior, and he informed me that one of the females was a former circus animal, and that their young male also bobs his head. Jacobs told me that when a trainer comes to the gate the young male elephant will bob his head in an “anticipatory way” the same way a dog would wag its tail. He also informed me that the zoo is working on the human/elephant conflict in several countries. Farmers are being eaten out of crops by elephants and the zoo is helping educate the farmers in ways to protect their crops without violence toward the animals.
Jacobs also told me that the chimpanzees have a lot of enrichment, and that the tiger was pacing and …
You Might Also Like ...