Sunday, June 22, 2008

The zoo

We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

I don't like zoos. I haven't liked zoos for a long time. I didn't like zoos long before I became a vegetarian. (This now strikes me as weird.) Zoos just seem like such sad places to me.

Not that every part of a zoo is depressing. The parts with snakes and frogs, for example, are not depressing. Snakes and frogs are cool critters, and also don't have very demanding emotional needs. On average, I don't think they are made miserable by conditions of captivity.

I was expecting to be depressed by the primates. I hear zoo life can be hard on primates. But as far as I could tell, they mostly looked like they were doing OK. It might help that they're mostly kept in sizable social groups, and, as social animals, can get some happiness out of just grooming each other, or supervising their hyper kids tumbling around on branches and rolling around in packing paper (which is adorable).

Four "exhibits" were very depressing, though.

The birds of prey: I have a possibly irrational level of affection for birds of prey, and I really hate to see them stuck in a cage.

The polar bears: Their enclosure was too small, and Chicago in the summer is way too hot.

The sun bears: They had a big enclosure, but one of them just kept pacing back and forth along the edge of this tiny pool.

The depressed cat: This was the worst. I can't remember if it was a leopard or a jaguar, but there was one big hunting cat pacing back in forth in a tiny enclosure. It had room enough for maybe half a dozen paces before it had to turn around to pace back the other way, and then repeat the process for probably most of the day. Plus the "Lion House" where all the big cats are kept is like an echo chamber, and the voices of all the shrieking kids reverberate to create a din that is pretty awful even for a human.
The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

~ Rilke
Also I got some coffee at a cafeteria in the zoo, and even though I brought a thermos specifically so that I could get some coffee without wasting a paper cup, they insisted on pouring the coffee into a paper cup first because they apparently "count cups". I have no idea what that means, but whatever it is it pisses me off.


christian said...

no heffalumps? I always felt worst about the elephants at Woodland Park (Seattle) Zoo. they always look so bored and depressed.

the orangutans never looked all that thrilled to be there either.

Toby said...

Hey man!

No, no elephants. Or orangutans.

Toby said...

Regarding the coolness of elephants, check this out.