Monday, August 12, 2013

Zoo Time

I went to the Toronto Zoo while on vacation, my first visit in probably 15 years. I'm always conflicted about a visit. I know that zoos do a lot of good work for our fellow earth inhabitants, but - bottom line - the animals are caged and not always in the most appropriate settings. In fact our elephants are leaving for - at last report - a sanctuary in California. The city has decided that the zoo just can't give them the accommodation and quality of life they need. Also, as the herd has dwindled from 11 or so to just three, they need to be with more of their own kind.

The zoo is busy promoting this summer promoting its giant pandas, on a five-year loan from the Calgary Zoo. Now this I had to see! It was all very well set up, with excellent volunteers and displays. The pandas themselves are smaller than I anticipated... and really sleepy. I mean, seriously, these could have been stuffed pandas. I'm glad I saw them, but I don't recommend visiting the zoo if that's your only goal. I think most wildlife viewings are best done on HD TV, where licenced camera crews have gone into a habitat, done what they do best, and got the hell out. Just leave the great wilderness to the animals. I'm not a fan of eco-tourism or whale watching or any of these other passtimes that seem to be just more and more encroachment on delicate eco systems. And I suppose that's another point in favour of zoos.

Big zoo hits are the while lions (they seem to appreciate their own glamour) and the polar bears. My absolute favourites are the orangutans, which share 99.6% of our genome. Their faces are so expressive and intelligent, it's an honour to be in their presence.

Everyone looked pretty sleep on this particular day. And by the time I got home, I was too.

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