Scooping ice-cream in the heart of Auckland not only gives me pimples, a lactose addiction and a hulk-sized right arm, it’s given me a rather unusual form of headache. Every day I get oodles of tourists coming in and chatting about their holiday. I do hear about the azure wonders of the Bay of Island’s, the exquisite nature of the south island and how scary it is to put your feet on the glass floor on the Sky Tower but seriously what I hear about the most is how great the Auckland zoo is…. and that really bugs me.
A few weeks ago I was whinging to Becks about the regular zoo/aquarium chat. I was annoyed that I felt obliged to be pleasant and sometimes even sounded enthusiastic to customers about their visit. I wanted to share my views about why I feel they shouldn’t go but when it came down to doing it, I couldn’t.
Last week I made progress, a Dad and his two daughters were on holidays for 2 weeks from Australia and they had just visited the aquarium. Instead of my usual ‘that’s great!’ I mustered the courage to ask if they were planning to go on the Auckland Whale and Dolphins Cruise which would allow them to see dolphins, penguins, sharks, gannets and sometimes whales and orca’s in their natural habitat. The dad looked at me a little odd, he had never heard of this tour here in Auckland and finished the conversation with a “never mind because we are leaving tomorrow anyway.” A hidden sigh from me, a change of subject later and the family left with a bunch of ice-cream and a smile. This time I wasn’t annoyed at myself, I had given an alternative and had to accept that there is a sub-culture out there that doesn’t see beyond the smiling penguin banners and the stingray ‘touch and feel’ pens. I realised that there are people out there that don’t think twice about seeing an animal in captivity.
Since the documentary Blackfish, Sea World and it’s reputation has been dragged through the mud. I am wholly supportive of this but it seems hypocritical that we all jump on the band wagon to destroy one company when we still appreciate the captivity of other species.
People often argue that they can’t afford to go to Africa to see a giraffe, or to Australia to see a killer whale and it’s true, I totally get that. I want to visit Africa and right now I just don’t have the funds to get there but that doesn’t stop me from loving chimpanzees. Take space for example. As kids we grow up learning about space, we watch movies, make dioramas of our solar system, we collect books and stick glow in the dark stars on our ceilings. We know that potentially we will never ever go to space but that doesn’t stop our fascination with it. We still love space, we still find enjoyment and wonderment without actually seeing it with our own eyes. Well why isn’t that the same as the kid who loves chimpanzees? Why do you need the quick fix to see one in captivity, which reflects an environment nothing like the ones you’ve watched for hours on BBC’s Planet Earth.
My problem with people who visit zoo’s is simple, you’re mentality sucks. A cheap 2 hour visit to the zoo because you have no creativity to think of something better to do somehow outweighs a lifetime of seclusion and confinement for another species. It’s astounding! The enclosure doesn’t mimic a natural habitat; A polar bear roams ~250km a day; a rock hopper penguin stays at sea up to 2 weeks at a time covering absurd distances; a killer whale swims ~150km per day. Putting them into an enclosure just isn’t natural regardless of the species. Just the other day I discovered that an average lifespan of a common dolphin is 30 years but in confinement it’s 1.5 years. Why is only Shamu making the headlines when this is happening all over the world?
I’m super outspoken about this but everyone chooses their battles and this one just happens to be mine.
I suppose it goes back to the old saying: If you love it, let it be free… I just wish people would see that.