To Zoo Or Not To Zoo?

a caged jaguar paws at the glass of her zoo cage

I have no idea where I stand on zoos – and that upsets me.

I have a dilemma … If it were not for zoos I would not be the person I am now. Without seeing captive wildlife when young I would not be the wildlife obsessed photographer/wildlife lover I am today. It was the one way / only way I could ‘interact’ with wild species that was out of reach for me. I felt a special bond when an animal would respond to my hand pressed against the glass, when I’d sense a connection with a wild and dangerous animal in the confines of their ‘safely’, barricaded, cage. However, I also knew what was wrong and cruel – witnessing  caged circus bears and lions on a Portuguese roundabout in my pre-teen years made me so outraged that I caused my parents great distress by crying, shouting and screaming at the atrocious that I saw. And then I put pen to paper and made a futile  attempt to make a difference. Did it… of course not.  And that is what saddens me.

Good zoos have an important place in educating and in animals conservation. I have read many books by people who have started or saved zoos, and I applaud their brave efforts – none more than the late and incredible Anthony Graham and his heroic rescue of Baghdad Zoo.   Therefore, I want to say I support them – in fact, as penniless students and young graduates we even had membership of the royal zoological society for years. Zoos are where I honed my photography skills and love for wildlife. But it still feels a little wrong…

However, and on the other hand,  if man continues to hunt, poach and murder animals, zoos might be the only saviors and the only safe havens for these animals.  Can we do right for doing wrong?!

I wonder if the answer has come from me adding lots of photos to our Taraji Blue Captive photo gallery tonight? With each image added I get more and more stern in how I describe the captive animals –  caged, damned, trapped etc –   But this anger is fueled, hugely, by what I have exposed too recently  about animal cruelty in China. I am emotional and stressed – I want to do more to help the world’s wildlife, yet each day I return to my desk job. Can I really make a difference from my study at home – taking images and sharing them to bring to life what we need to protect and conserve? It feels futile and I feel upset. I just don’t know what to think …

Foxes ask - Is he sleeping?

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