Monday, April 04, 2011

Cruel, animal prison or educational hands on experience?

I told myself, and my mom, that I would post a blog on Friday. I had every intention of doing so.  Then the reality of only having gotten four hours of sleep the night before hit and I napped instead.  My mom wasted no time in questioning about my lack of blog post from Friday.  I apologize for the lack of informative/amusing/ridiculous reading information.  I do try to blog during the week so I can have the weekend off without too long a break.  I am finally feeling better as the antibiotics have taken hold and are waging battle with the bacterium in my intestines.  Between that and a few nights of sleep, I'm feeling like a productive member of society again. 

Sunday I felt well enough to take part in an organized group activity.  Taman Safari is an animal park.  Anyone familiar with the Puget Sound area should know about Northwest Trek (if you don't,click on it), but in NWTrek visitors ride on a shuttle instead of drive.  It's very similar.  Customers pay to enter and drive through the park on a set course where the animals are free to roam about.  There are lots of hoofed animals, think deer, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, plus elephants, hippos and rhinos.  You never have to get out of the car.  At this particular park you can feed the animals carrots and bananas which are available by the bushel before entering the park. At the end of the driving track, visitors can get out of the car.  There are restaurants, cafes, a few kiddie rides, souvenir shops, an aviary and a "petting zoo".
The green trail is the driving part, the brown is walking area.
I noticed throughout the entire drive there were some potentially dangerous animals that were free roaming.  The rhinos weren't restrained (more on that later), neither were the lions, tigers or leopards. At Northwest Trek at home I remember being able to feed some of the hoofed animals bread or veggies but I don't recall being allowed to drive through a lion enclosure. Many of the animal enclosures were built with walls or distance between their climbing area and the space people milled about.  These spaces all felt much closer, much narrower than they would in the States. Being that Americans are more litigious than most societies, it doesn't surprise me.  I never felt in as though I was in danger.

I took the time and spent the money to go to the Baby zoo, which at home would be a petting zoo.  I had my photo taken with a baby orangutan and a leopard.  I was close enough to touch a kangaroo and feed an elephant. I thrilled at the proximity of the animals and tried to soak in what was sure to be a unique experience. At the same time, I felt desperately guilty and ashamed for having gone.  Some of the animals were too thin, like the bears.  Others were too fat.  The alligators looked really wide.  I chalk i t up to not having to hunt for food or having much a space to run around.  Some animals, particularly the big cats, paced nervously and seemed unsettled.  It was mentioned in our car that the rhinos were probably tranquilized so they wouldn't become upset and ram a car.
Have I consented in their treatment by visiting the park?  On one hand, if I don't go, there are still many others who will.  I am a drop in the bucket.  And maybe my entrance fee is going to improve their conditions.  Plus, this is an educational opportunity.  If people see how stunning the animals are they will be more invested in conserving their habitats.  On the other hand, my money isn't going to help the animals, it's paying the employees and adding to general profits.  I think most people, and Indonesians in particular, aren't affected by the "education" element of these parks and don't make any correlation to the need for conservation in-situ.  I can't imagine what my life would be like should I have to live in the park all day, everyday.  Though I understand that they do not have the mental capacity that humans do, or perhaps the capability to understand and assess their situation, they can still be miserable.
Northwest trek has the sense to keep only local animals, ones that were well suited to the climate.  Cougars, lynx, bison, moose, deer.  We didn't see the polar bear at Taman Safari and I think I'm grateful for it.  There were large snakes in small tanks, elephants working for rides and in shows, and kangaroos who's cage was a chain link fenced, barely grassed plot between the baby zoo and a cafe.  I think I'll make a donation to World Wildlife Fund right now.

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