Friday, January 7, 2011

The Zoo

As part of my ongoing DC wanderings I found myself recently in the neighborhood of the National Zoo. I have to say I'm pretty ambivalent about zoos and whether they are "good" or "bad" for the creatures they house. I've had strong opinions both ways over the years, they do well with captive breeding of endangered animals it's true, but does that outweigh the negatives? The reality, however, is it's too late to close the barn doors now... So it pretty much comes down to whether the zoo is a good zoo or a bad zoo. I hope the former outnumber the latter.

But still... watching a cheetah stroll with all its feline grace through the mock savanna she's been consigned to in the heart of Washington DC raises difficult questions in my mind. (the fact that her space is adjacent to that of a few zebras seems especially cruel.) Knowing the fastest land animal on earth will never be able to exercise that feat is an uncomfortable fact to ignore. Does she know it? Feel it? I have no idea. But I know it. I feel it. That's painful enough. Every animal there suffers to some degree the repression of some aspect of their natural instincts.

Which brings us to the great apes. I suspect these highly intelligent cousins of ours do feel the isolation, the claustrophobia... the inability to roam. (it's winter now so they spend their time inside, even less space.) Gorillas in captivity, if I think about it too much, just feels wrong. Such a highly evolved creature deserves better, I think.

But it is what it is... and there they are... I come and see them when I can.... and man!... they are goddamn impressive!

gorillas at national zoo gorillas at national zoo gorillas at national zoo
Thought I'd throw in a couple Orangs as well. And yes, the 2nd picture down...that's ape sex! Guess it can't be all bad there.

orangutans at national zoo orangutans at national zoo orangutans at national zoo


  1. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but the National Zoo is not the poster child for ideal zoological locations. ESPECIALLY when it comes to the Great, or is that Grape, Ape house. What could be worse than the Ape house, however, is the pin that the Bison are in; assuming they are still there.

    Anyway, its always my hope that the research done at many zoos is worth the captivity of the animals. Many of those animals wouldn't have a chance in the wild so one must ask, better living than not?

    Cool pics by the way, I have to admit the Ape house of my favorite locations at the Zoo. The animals are just magnificent.

  2. Ape Sex...well that's new!

    Nice series here Mike, if you get a chance see if you can get your hands on Joel Sartore's RARE He talks a lot about endangered species existing and reproducing in captivity. This being an almost direct result of extreme loss of habitat in North America. Powerful stuff!

    Hope all is well my friend...Jeremy

  3. Thanks gentlemen!

    Rob, I don't know if the Bison pen is still around. There is much construction going on right now, so I'm hopeful our National Zoo can become the zoo all others aspire to. Who knows.


    I've been intending to pick up Sartore's book. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. I can't go into the Ape house, too depressing for me.

  5. Hi Gretchen. I can relate. It's not easy to look past the sad conditions.