October 6, 2005

Self Hating Zoos

We took an extended visit to the zoo yesterday (in DC) in lieu of the playground, and whoa, it was totally empty. Like no people at all. And while the kid was excited to see animals we usually don't--to be a glasspane away from an orangutan, or to have the panda to herself [or as she calls him, the "real panda," to distinguish from the stuffed pandas that clog the stores in the neighborhood], I felt horrible.

Maybe I've been watching the watering hole too much and my expectations are now too high, but the experience was kind of depressing. The animals were listless; the elephant looked emaciated, like a tarp thrown over a scaffold. I found myself peppering my answers to the kid's non-stop "wha da?" with imaginings of the animals' pent-up existential anguish. While I felt it was useful to teach the kid, I felt somewhat complicit in a giant exercise in animal cruelty.

So I hope you'll understand if, after watching Creature Comforts, Nick Park's 1989 Oscar-winning animated short about the inner lives of zoo animals, I officially become a self-hating zoo-goer for a while.

Watch Nick Park's Creature Comforts (5 min.)

[btw, what category does zoo-hating go in? I'm not just grumpy, I'm stumped.]


You need a new category, "Being a dad" where you can put your observations/feelings/etc about being a father...

We did the Bronx zoo a number of years ago, and it was a good time. That said, I remember a visit to the Portland Zoo in the dead of winter in the late 80's, and it was really depressing.

I sat there for fifteen minutes watching a lion pace in a small cage. Round, and round, and round, all the time with a glazed over look on his face. Real depressing.

the Oregon Zoo (in Portland) is much improved now and we love going there -- no cages. We are, however, totally hooked on the National Geographic Pete's Pond feed.

The DC zoo is depressing - I always found the camels particularly sad because they just look so out of place and they have such an awful habitat.

[there are camels?? -ed.]

When we were in DC last year, we had planned on visiting the zoo, but were warned by a friendly cab driver that the DC zoo is notoriously underfunded and out-of-date and has a history of untimely animal deaths. Sad. Needless to say, we never made it to the zoo that week.

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