On The Red List

I wrote this post earlier this week because of an image I saw on Facebook.  It was the photo of a sad baby rhino who according to the article was scared to sleep alone.  That story inspired this post but then after reading it, I thought no, I won’t publish it because the world doesn’t need another whiny post from another animal-lover and passionate conservationist.  But then … an egomaniac decided he and his estimated 20 000 guests would feast on elephant and buffalo meat at his 91st birthday celebration and that dear readers and friends is why you get to read my post.

From Grade 1 to 3 our school would take us on ‘field trips’ to the zoo.  Even then, as a curious and fierce animal lover I did not like zoos and dreaded those trips.   Something –  I knew not what – was wrong with the Polar Bear and something was definitely wrong with the Siberian Tiger.  It wasn’t until I went on my first safari that I realized what that ‘something’ was and why their lacklustre coats and sad eyes filled me with horror.  Lost to those animals behind thick iron bars and high walls is the life coded into their DNA.  These animals have been abducted and abused for profit and yet …in some cases – and this is increasingly becoming the case – animals are being saved by zoos.

Do you visit zoos and aquariums?  Do you feel we need them? 

To save animals from human beings you have to capture them and imprison them, because demarcating swathes of land with walls or barbed wire and declaring them ‘wildlife preserves’ do not stop poachers.

Here’s some quick rhino related facts: the Western Black Rhino has been wiped out by poachers; there are only five Northern White Rhinos left in the world, all in captivity and all unable to breed.

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Image from discoverwildlife.com

Beautiful, shaggy orangutans (above) are on the endangered list (Borneo).  These gardeners of the forest are responsible for ‘seed dispersal’ but human encroachment has impacted negatively on their population.  Snow leopards, sea lions, Green Turtles, Fin Whales, African Wild Dogs, Black Footed Ferrets…if you have not yet heard of these wonderful creatures or had the privilege to see them in their natural habitats, familiarize yourself with them today because soon they will join a chorus of Dodos and Passenger Pigeons.

So today I encourage you to visit a wildlife refuge or zoo if it means you get to see and fall in love with ‘exotic’ species or something within you wakes up to the realization that we’re not as ‘superior’ or as special as we like to think we are, because of our Big Brains and Big Plans for more, more and more until nothing is left, just a list of names in the interverse.

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21 thoughts on “On The Red List

  1. Absolutely right.

    If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals. ~ Albert Einstein

    If we do not do something to help these creatures, we make a mockery of the whole concept of justice. ~ Jane Goodall

    How smart does a chimp have to be before killing him constitutes murder? ~ Carl Sagan

    The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

    Life is life ~ whether in a cat, or dog, or man. The idea of difference is a human conception for man’s own advantage. ~ Sri Aurobindo

  2. A thought provoking post Yolanda. I don’t know who your egomaniac is and I don’t want to know. I won’t follow the link to give more attention to his choices. I felt like you as a child about zoos – it took years for me to really appreciate what my child-soul knew. And yet now here they are, doing some really important conservation work and doing their best to provide a facsimile of the real world to their animals. I appreciate their efforts. Certainly in this country so many of our ground dwelling native birds would have faced extinction from introduced predators if not for the continued work and studies of these men and women. If I had to choose between zoo-keepers and egomaniacal old fools I know who I would [shoot] choose!

  3. There are two zoos here that I’ve visited more than once. They both run extensive conservation programs and the enclosures are as near to a natural habitat for the animals as is possible. The gorillas at Paignton zoo in Devon are marvellous – I could sit and observe then all day. At the other zoo, Marwell, there have been several breeding successes, the best of those I’ve actually seen was a baby giraffe. If I think back to a zoo I went to as a child, there’s no comparison. Today’s zoos seem to be doing very committed work.

    • I think today’s zoos are also better funded because people realize they are now in the business of conservation. I worry about the animals in Third World countries. A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Central America and was appalled at the living conditions of the animals in the small zoo she visited 😦

  4. It’s disturbing to hear stories about these poachers, Yolanda. I heard a story on the news recently about the Northern White Rhinos…very upsetting. Growing up in the Washington D.C. area, I loved visiting the National Zoo. I especially loved to watch the Pandas.

    • Ah pandas! 🙂 They are among the more fortunate animals, in that everyone seems to love them. I know of quite a few zoos in the US that are doing great work Jill. The San Diego zoo comes to mind – they have a panda cam (and a tiger cam etc so you can watch your favourite animals) 🙂

  5. Oh, I know what you mean! We need zoos to get kids to love these animals, but they are so awful for the animals that we shouldn’t have them!!! They have to be made BETTER for them and then only put animals in there that can’t be put back in the wild for some reason or that are bred at the zoo (maybe). I love animals!!!

    • I never thought I would ever get to ‘like’ zoos but that has now happened because many of them are doing such great work of saving species. Future generations are clearly going to appreciate them.

  6. I love going to our local zoo Yolanda because they are always trying to raise awareness of endangered animals and have great breeding programs in place for certain animals. Protected yes, caged yes… but rather that than lose them altogether.

  7. Oh Yolanda, I remember so vividly having just the same thoughts as you, about that ‘something’ not being right with the animals when I went to the zoo as a child. I noticed the bears pacing up and down and felt so sorry for them. Now, I do believe that zoos today are doing a great job with conservation and education and breeding programmes, raising awareness of the very issues you bring up here in your heart-felt and important post. It is horrifying to learn that even sea lions are endangered…who would have thought that not so long ago? As for that egomaniac, I’d like to serve him up, nice and crisp, smothered in bbq sauce…

  8. I am sad to say going to tell you that since some people don’t get to travel far and wide, a zoo is the closest they will come to being able to see a penguin, a panda or a kangaroo. We have a double wooden doored fenced in exhibit where the kangaroos cross the path you are walking on, in the Columbus Zoo. The two sets of doors work in the aviary also, so that the special birds can fly to the top of a netted area, while the tigers and lions have boulders and an airplane that they lie on. We have become a much better and more aware culture where we do try to create a more healthy and happier environment for the wild animals. In Cleveland, there is a huge ravine. In Columbus, we now have a safari area with acres of land. They are still feeding the giraffes (two kinds) by hand, while they run dogs with the cheetahs. This can be so fascinating a subject. I don’t believe in hunting nor killing wild animals and am very sad at the declining and endangered species, Yolanda. Such a thought-provoking post. Good job!

  9. I’m most upset by supposed independent animal “rescuers” on the eastern plains of Colorado, Yolanda. In the last year there have been 4 small-farm owners that have touted their big hearts and open arms for abandoned animal…only to later be found out. One had left more than a dozen starving horses, mules and ponies in the most deplorable conditions; four died even before the Humane Society could even try to transport them. The other three farms were so horrible I can’t even say it. To me, this kind of cruelty deserves huge fines plus prison time, but so far two have been assigned community service and minimal fines, and the others haven’t yet been dealt with at all.

  10. If feel the same and agree with all of the above .. very very upsetting. I had mixed feelings when visiting the zoo as a child. I was and still am a huge animal lover (wanted to become a vet at one point) and so I was very excited to get an up-close look to all the animals I had only been reading about in books or watching from documentaries, but at the same time once I was there and observed their behavior I felt these poor animals were not happy especially because some of them had to be caged so small. Sadly enough and again at the same time encouraging to know that today those institutions are far more better equipped (most reliable) as a consequence of responsible judgement when it comes to capacity and quality of life for the animals as well as contributing to the conservation of our wildlife by extensive research, protection and breeding programs.

    • Well said Karin 🙂 your comment made me realize just how vital wildlife documentaries are, especially for future generations who may not get to see many species in the wild.

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