An Alphabet Of things I Like: Z

This is the last in my current alphabet series. You may have noticed that ‘Q’ did not feature. That was deliberate, as I could not find anything I really like beginning with that letter.

Zoos.

As soon as I was old enough to make my own decisions, I realised I actually hated Zoos. I felt so sad to see large animals pacing in small cages, and the sight of chimpanzees being made to entertain crowds by having tea parties really offended me. Marine animals kept in shallow, dirty ponds, distressed bears shaking their heads from side to side. It was heartbreaking.

For a long time, I actively campaigned against all zoos. I signed petitions about the treatment of animals, and joined organisations that demanded they stop bringing animals captured in the wild to be displayed. Many were not only housed in unsuitable conditions, but forced to share compounds with other animals they would not usually encounter in the wild. The aquariums and insect houses were often dirty and cramped, little more than relics of the Victorian Era.

You only had to spend a few hours in any zoo in the world to see animals displaying all kinds of mental health problems; from severe depression, to outright rage at being imprisoned. The backlash against zoos was increasing in many western countries. Visitor numbers were declining, and the traditional zoo trip was slowly being replaced by the desire to visit the new exciting funfairs and theme parks.

There was also a growing trend for ‘wildlife parks’, where animals were free to roam around large estates while visitors stayed in their cars as they drove through. Most people no longer wanted to gawp at poor creatures staring back from behind iron bars.

By the 1980s, things were changing. Zoos were becoming involved in conservation of species that were disappearing fast in the wild. In some cases, the only remaining animals of some species were to be found in zoos, as they no longer existed in the wild. Then the zoos began to return animals to their natural habitat, attempting to increase the numbers in the countries where they had diminshed. One famous example of this was the Giant Panda breeding programme, started in Beijing Zoo.

London Zoo underwent a complete overhaul, providing better conditions for the animals, and focusing on scientific study and breeding programmes. In America, San Diego Zoo earned a reputation for excellence, with its care for the animals kept there.

In 2000, I went to live in Camden, within sight of London Zoo. I joined as an annual member, making quite a few trips into the zoo to see the changes. I had to admit, I was now thinking differently about zoos.

Then in 2002, during a trip to Singapore, I was happy to visit the Singapore Zoo. I don’t think I have ever seen a better zoo, or one where animals were kept in conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible. Though even there, they still had elephant rides, and photo opportunites with placid Orang-Utans.

So I have decided that I like zoos now.

But only ‘good’ ones.

58 thoughts on “An Alphabet Of things I Like: Z

  1. You have written a very balanced post on zoos and capture my ambivalence quite well. I was waiting for these thoughts that you mentioned would be forthcoming when I responded to an much earlier post. Thanks. The wait was worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jersey Zoo used to be named Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a reminder of how it all started and the ethos behind it. Having visited other zoos it is way up there on how animals should be treated and they have many successful breeding and reintroduction projects.
    But the sad thing for me is that we found ourselves in this position and I wish that the money that these places generate was directed to stropping the destruction of our natural world in the first place. Of course it will never happen, but I can dream.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Terrific Pete. If Zoos help grow the numbers of any species, then bravo to them. The San Diego Zoo is indeed a great example of how positive a Zoo can be. the era of animals in cages is past us, and hopefully the future of Zoos will be to sustain and grow a species and provide a safe environment for them to flourish…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Zoos have changed so much in my lifetime. The first zoo I liked was San Diego and now all the zoos have followed the wildlife habitat. Good zoos are educational as well as entertaining. Not many people will ever see these animals in the wild. Zoos also keep the species alive.
    I have a grandson who was in charge of the manta rays in SeaWorld and his wife is in charge of the hippos in DisneyWorld. My grandson now is in charge of an ocean coral revigoration project for SeaWorld and Disney. When he was small the two of us spent a lot of time at the two excellent zoos in the area.
    And another victory for animal lovers came about when the circuses stopped animal acts.
    Now if we could only stop the poachers and the ‘trophy’ bitchers.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Your family connection is just great to hear about, Don. I would also love to see those countries profiting from ‘trophy hunters’ have ing that trade stopped by international pressure. Sanctions, if need be.. Sadly, a large percentage of those ‘fake hunters’ are Americans. And Americans also keep more of certain species of big cats in their homes than currently exist in the wild. That should be outlawed too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. (1) In American zoos, the chimpanzees don’t have tea parties. They sit around guzzling beer and throwing empty cans at the chumps who paid to see them.
    (2) There was one zoo that shipped its gorillas back to Africa. “It’s unsuitable for the gorillas here, guys. So suit up and pretend to be a gorilla.”
    (3) There are millions of animals imprisoned here in the States. Some are eventually released on parole.
    (4) The first wildlife p’ark was Noah’s.
    (5) I’ve never seen a panda, but I’ve eaten meals at Panda Express. I’m still a bit peeved that they don’t serve panda burgers.
    (6) Orangutans are quite tasty, especially the ones in Lake Placid, where they’re slow cooked in a croc pot.
    (7) For the sake of children, zoos need to ban elephants that go around with their trunks down.

    NOTE: Marine animals (of the non-military kind) usually fare better in an aquarium. I’ve been to the one in Monterey Bay. I’ve also visited Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay here in Las Vegas. The best one, apparently, is in Atlantis (or is it Atlanta?). I’ve enjoyed stroking the bat rays and stingrays, and they enjoy being stroked. (But maybe it depends on the person; as there are different strokes for different folks.) There are also several large tanks (of the non-military kind) around town. For example, the Forum Shops has a 50,000-gallon saltwater tank, and Bass Pro Shops has a 40,000-gallon freshwater tank. I’ve often watched the antics of tank divers (not to be confused with the tactics of tank drivers), and wondered if they ever felt like a fish out of water.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I like zoos too. I grew up in Seattle and we often went to the Woodland Park Zoo, which like many others of the era was pretty basic and did not have the best enclosures for the animals. Today it’s a completely new zoo with large natural habits and dedicated to wildlife conservation. I still like going, but I’m always saddened to see certain animals confined such as the large cats and elephants.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I had the same feeling about the treatment of animals when I saw the dancing horses in Spain. Everyone was enjotying the intricate movements but I just thought they looked so unnutural.
    The only good word beginning with Q that I can think of is ‘quest.’ If we start each day with a sense of purpose we should feel better about this horrible time. It’s a struggle to get out when our dog no longer likes to walk past the end of the road. We aren’t used to exercising for the love of it. So even a trip to the butcher is a kind of quest and going to the library was, until lockdown. A friend has sent me some menus to help me lose wait. Buying the ingredients for those will be my next quest! Best Wishes,J.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m with you on zoos, but there are some good ones and necessary for conservation in these times when animals are going extinct at an alarming rate. Wildlife parks are better of course where animals have more freedom, but there is nothing sadder than a polar bear in a zoo. Marwell in Hampshire is very good. Berlin and Singapore and San Diego — though I wasn’t happy with the elephants in SD. The best way to see wildlife is in their natural habitat, though I won’t be visiting Antarctica to see the penguins!

    As for Q – somehow I didn’t think the Queen would be featuring, unless you like the band of course!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t dislike Queen as a band, but also don’t own any of their records. I can take or leave them. The actual ‘Queen’ may well feature in the alphabet of things I dislike. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s been a great list this time, Pete. And I’ve always loved going to the Zoo. My favorite area is the otter pond.
    But to fill in on the ‘Q’, I’ll suggest quiche, quartz and our football quarterbacks.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Somehow I guess that this would be the result for the Z😊 As a kid I hated zoos, I think I just lacked the patience for themπŸ˜…πŸ˜… But then as I grew older I began to love them. I do agree though, luckily a zoo has become a better place now for the animals and they are being better treated. You have visited some great zoos Pete! Have you ever been to the Zoo in Arnhem? That one has some really cool things in it😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No, I didn’t visit any zoos when I was in Holland, and I have not seen San Diego. But I have been to the ones in Beijing, Berlin, Singapore, London, and Colchester. They were all ‘good ones’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, tell you what if you ever get the chance to visit here again, next to treating you on pancakes, I’ll also treat you to the Arnhem Zoo😊 I think you will love it thereπŸ˜€
        I saw that in the post about the Singapore zoo, that was the one that impressed me the most! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

        Liked by 2 people

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