Monday, November 22, 2004

More on W&W and Zoos, in general

In my previous entry, I asked you all to go and sign the petition to save Wanda and Winky, the Detroit Zoo's old grand lady elephants. The Detroit Zoo earlier in the year announced that they were voluntarily giving up their elephants because of inadequate living conditions, even though the Detroit Zoo's enclosure is more than the AZA requires.

For most of my life I hated Zoos. I refused to go to them. In fact, I hadn't been to one since grade school until I went about ten years ago or so (can't remember exactly). I just hated seeing the animals in cages. I remember in 1993 going to Zoo Boise in Idaho and realising that the Detroit Zoo was a much more humane and better zoo than most. Zoo Boise (at least back then) had their animals still in cages. I remember foxes and rabbits and other small mammals stacked in cages. Other than the grizzlies having sex, I don't remember much about it, except the cages. And then when I moved to San Francisco, I went to their Zoo a few times. My friend Mary had a membership and even though she didn't like zoos, per se, she felt that the animals held in captivity had to be given the best that the Zoo could. Again, when compared to the Detroit Zoo I was not impressed (and gave me new appreciation for what Detroit has done for their animals). But when I returned to Detroit, I followed Mary's example and got myself a Zoo membership which I've renewed faithfully every year. It's not about getting into the zoo for free (since I do not go often enough to cover the initial cost), it's about the animals. 2-3 years back the Detroit Zoo opened the Arctic Ring of Life which is a new exhibit for the polar bears (my favorites). The ARL is so fabulous that you can't even see the damn polar bears half the time. Fabulous for them, that is. They have a mini-frozen tundra to roam and a big pool in which to swim and to be tempted by the seals kept on the other side of acrylic window. The ARL also has arctic foxes and snow geese, I think. We had two beautiful snowy owls, but they died two years ago during the Niles Virus problem. So sad. One was completely white and the other had flecks of brown. Both stunning.

I now go to the zoo a couple of times of year and greet my favorite animals, but until we get rhinos it'll never be the same. Two years ago at this time, they had to put our lone rhino, Rudy, to sleep. He was 40 years old (which apparently is quite ancient for rhinos) and was in failing health. Basically it was cruel to keep him alive just for me, apparently. Have I told you how much I loved Rudy the Rhino? He was quite literally my favorite animal at the zoo (since Frankie the old polar bear had left us) for a number of reasons. 1) Rhinos are just the freaking coolest animals. To my eyes, they are unbelievably beautiful and have you ever seen a baby rhino? It's the cutest damn thing! 2) A few years back when I was living in SF, some poor person who wasn't playing with a full deck crawled into Rudy's enclosure [I think this was when he was in the enclosure next to Wanda and Winky - before they moved him and made W&W's enclosure a full acre)]. Anyhoo, this guy got into Rudy's enclosure, but with Rudy being so old and so tired, he basically didn't care at all and he did nothing to the man. I think Rudy just looked at the nutcase and closed his eyes and resume his nap. Rudy was pretty mellow in his old age.

At any rate, the Detroit Zoo has been without one of the most magnificent animals in the world, the rhinoceros, for almost two years and I hear that if we're able to send W&W off to the Elephant Sanctuary we'll get a new rhino (or perhaps more) who will live in W&W's enclosure. And if the AZA doesn't give in to the petition of outraged citizens, I hope we get to keep W&W, and we'll just have to find a different location for the rhino(s). Keep your fingers crossed.

And in response to all those people who are anti-Zoo (I was one, so I know the arguments), I believe in the breeding programs to halt the spread of extinction which thanks to the human being is happening on a regular basis (and our present president is trying desperately to declaw the Endangered Species Act). Without zoos I'm pretty sure there are any number of animals who wouldn't exist at all, i.e., rhinos (black and white), tigers (both varieties), etc. And until we can figure out how to stop encroaching on their environment, zoos will continue to be necessary, to save the few animals left.

And I'm sure the first step could happen right here in the Detroit area where people seem to feel that they have to keep building bigger and bigger houses further and further away from the city center. Not all that long ago there was actually empty land between Detroit and Ann Arbor. It felt like a TRIP to drive to AA. Now it's just a pain in the ass since I-94 is never not crowded with stupid people who don't know how to drive.

Go sign the petition! Let's make the AZA see the errors of its ways!


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