Thursday, October 16, 2008

This Post Has Turned Into An Angry Rant. Oops.

One day we will go to the Canberra Zoo.   I hope.  

I actually haven't heard anything great about this zoo. I don't think it has any kind of awesome reputation.  But I haven't heard anything that bad either.

I guess we'll see.  

The zoo has the largest saltwater inland tank in Australia.  Good on them for that.   

This zoo is also the only place in Australia that is a combined zoo and aquarium.  Well, you know what.  I beg to differ.  Darling Harbor has Sydney Wildlife World and Sydney Aquarium. No they are not one and the same.  But they're right next to each other AND they share a kitchen. It IS annoying that you can't go to both with the same pass. They really need to change that. I mean I think they do have a pass that you can buy that will get you into both.   But I think the Aquarium season pass should also get you into Wildlife World.   

One thing I notice about Australian zoos vs the zoos in America is that Australian zoos seem to promote more animal-human interaction.  At our zoo, the best we can do is feed some parakeets. In Canberra, you can feed a tiger. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that.   It sounds exciting, but I think I'd be a little scared. Swimming with big harmless sharks is one thing.  Feeding a man-eating tiger--I just don't know.

The zoo is part of N.Z.A.C.T   This is all about helping endangered species--by both breeding programs and educating the public about the animals.   It sounds good to me.   

You know, when I first became vegetarian, I bought a vegan propaganda book.  I read about the anti-zoo viewpoint.  I do support zoos for the most part.   Yeah, in a perfect world all the animals would be out and about--free and wild.   But we don't live in a perfect world, and I think zoos can be valuable for two reasons

A) Protection of certain animals
B) Education

One of the arguments of the anti-zoo people is that zoos are not truly educational.   I agree to some points  I think zoos need more education.   I think they need more zookeepers and volunteers walking around, teaching people about the animals. I'm so tired of walking past the chimpanzees and hearing a parent say to their preschooler.  Look Johnny.   A monkey!  I want to scream. "They are NOT monkeys!"  It would be more accurate to mistake them for human.

At our zoo in Texas, there is very little education going on--at least not for the families visiting. They do have an education center that provides classes for preschoolers.  

 This year, I saw a man with his son teasing the Mountain Lion. Taunting it. I approached the man and told him that people in San Francisco did the same thing to do the tiger there. The tiger escaped a while later and killed someone. I think the man was very unnerved by what I had said--embarrassed to be scolded in front of his son and maybe a little frightened as well.  I felt quite triumphant. But you know it's really not my job to educate zoo patrons about the difference between apes and monkeys and to frighten young fathers against taunting big cats. I think the zoo should be providing these services.    

And okay, I don't mind offering up my services for free every so often.   Everyone knows I like to be a bossy know-it-all.  But I prefer to offer my services as an additional bonus. I don't like to feel that I alone am responsible for protecting the Mountain Lion from assholes.  

I know.  I know.  I sound like a spoiled ignorant brat.  I'm sure if someone from the Fort Worth Zoo was reading this, I'd get a lecture on how it costs money to run a zoo, how they wish they could provide more services, etc.  Well, you know what I say to that? I would change the subject by showing my disgust at the fact that The Fort Worth Zoo does not even provide recycling containers!  You can't recycle your bottles or cans there.  How can you promote yourself as helping animals and being all into conservation, when you can't do something simple like provide recycling.

Taronga Zoo has recycling!

Back to the Canberra zoo.....

I love this article  because it gives the names of the animals. I think naming the animals and telling the zoo visitors the names makes the experience more personal. The Fort Worth Zoo is against telling people what the names of the zoo animals are.  I know they HAVE names because I've heard the zookeepers discuss the animals amongst each other a few times. Or maybe someone asked and they told us. But none of the signs have any personal information about the animals--nothing about where the individual animals came from, their personality, their names, etc.   I once was told that this is because the zoo animals are "not pets".  Okay, that's true.  But they're also not free and wild.   Who are we trying to fool?

I think it's better when zoos provide personal information to the public because I think it does make the visitor care more.  Our zoo is incredibly impersonal. At least I think so.   

I guess different zoos have different philosophies. On one level, I don't know which is right--which one is best for the animals.   It is the one that allows human-animal interaction and encourages bonding between animals and humans?  Or is this too intrusive?  Is is better not to name the animals?   Well, the only other time I've heard this philosophy used is in terms of farming.   Don't name the animals because if you name the animals, it will make it harder to slaughter them one day.   So, should zoos not name animals in case that visitors might do too much bonding? And is that a bad thing?   If it is, why?     

Before I was a vegetarian, I went to the zoo with a Vegetarian friend.  She pointed out to me how the Fort Worth Zoo is very anti-vegetarian and has an explicit strong message of animals being around for the use of humans. The children's area has a whole activity based around what products are made from animals.  There are videos playing on the side of a big plastic cow that shows what looks to be a factory farm, while a cheerful narrator explains the importance of dairy to both our health and happiness.   

Well, I guess this post is less about Canberra and more about why I do not like our zoo in Fort Worth.  Oh well.   

I do enjoy most zoos and I like taking Jack to them.   I really don't know if  they provide enough conservation to be worthwhile, or if they really help to transform  young children into future animal lovers and wildlife warriors. I don't know if there are true substantial benefits.

 I DO believe they're a million times better than a calf in a tiny cage deprived of  proper exercise and nutrition so their meat can tastes better. And I think they're better than chickens getting their beaks chopped off so they don't resort to pecking each other in overcrowded conditions.    So, I guess....I feel you gotta pick your battles.  I aint gonna fight against zoos. I'm going to keep supporting them by visiting. But I might bitch about CERTAIN zoos every once in awhile.   


  1. We decided against going because of the cost. It was going to be around $70 for our family which seemed expensive to me. Especially given others were saying there are much better zoos in Australia. Instead, we took a drive out to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve where you can see Australian animals in the wild. It didn't cost us anything other than a bit of fuel to get out there.

  2. Lightening,

    How far away is the nature preserve???

    Maybe we'll do that instead.

    I'm gonna Google it.

  3. Wait, Canberra has a zoo?

    When did this happen?

    Melbourne Zoo & Werribee are the places to be...

  4. Melbourne Zoo is great. There is a butterfly enclosure where they fly all around you.

    If you want to see and touch Australian animals visit the Healesville Sanctuary, just over an hour's drive out of Melbourne.

    The platypus is an amazing animal and you can see it there.

  5. I agree with Greg. Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Park are two of the best zoo's in Australia. I've heard good things about Australia Zoo (Steve's place) as well. I think Melbourne is far better than Taronga and that is not just because I was born and bred in Melbourne either..I grew up going to both. I love zoos too Dina. We have some wildlife parks around here that you might like, one is not far from here. Nothing flash, but you'll get to see some Tasmanian native animals.


  6. Greg G: We're not going to Melbourne on this trip. Maybe next time.

    Michael: Sydney Wildlife World has a butterfly enclosure. We hung out in there for a long time. It's cool.
    I think we're going to do the Symbio Wildlife Park thing because it'll be closer to where we are. The Sydney aquarium has a platypus exhibit. They ARE amazing animals--love those monotremes.

    Tracey: Jack used to be all into Bindi so we were originally planning to go up to Queensland. But then he lost interest so we decided not to go. What's the Melbourne zoo like? I liked Taronga, but I preferred Wildlife World. I'd love to see the wildlife park in Tasmania : )