19 March 2008

Down among the stuffed beasts

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In the back rooms and top floors of natural history museums, hidden from the public eyes, there are often objects and artifacts that are waiting for their turns to go on display.

Usually, stuffed animals, in life-like postures, but covered in dust, are a dime a dozen.

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I am always distressed by the sight of a mammal or a bird that was taken from the wild, killed and then stuffed for the sole purpose of satisfying morbid human curiosities and obsessions. To me, observing a live animal, a product of nature doing what it has evolved to do, is infinitely more satisfying than looking at a taxidermist’s creation.

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What about keeping animals in zoos? Some organizations, such as the Born Free Foundation, is campaigning to “phase out” zoos throughout the world. I haven’t given much thought to the idea, but it is something certainly worth considering.


5 comments:

Dave Coulter said...

Thanks for the link. I would think one could argue pretty convincingly that the hundreds (thousands?) of zoos worldwide haven't done that much to slow down the decimation of animals in nature.

BG said...

re: Dave - How do you know? Have you compared our world with the exact duplicate world that doesn't have zoos and seen the same or similar rate of decline?

I have been torn about zoos myself. Some of the higher end ones that do research and seem focused on conservation I don't think I have a problem with.

However where I live there is a very sad little "city" zoo that is very depressing to me. Not modern at all, lots of cages and cement, it can almost bring tears to your eyes to see the big cats and primates in their cages.

I tell myself that these poor animals bravely endure their prisons with the hope that they may spark something in the children that visit that will help save more animals from their fate or worse.

If I had my way many zoos would be closed, but not all, I believe (and that is about all I have to go on, belief) the best run zoos serve a very useful purpose.

Dave Coulter said...

bg - Youre right. I don't know. There's no way of comparing. Is there a direct correlation between displaying animals in zoos to their protection in the wild?

Last winter I went to the (wonderful) Oregon Coast Aquarium.
My visit certainly educated and sensitized me to those creatures in that world. I would have had to do a lot of diving to get a similar experience!

But I read this week that the salmon fishery in the Sacramento River has virtually collapsed. Is there a relationship between places like the OCA and the salmon stocks? Or are zoos merely pretty places to display beautiful creatures while it's business as usual outside their gates?

I don't have the answers.

Frank Anderson said...

You could also argue that, over the past few decades anyway, zoos haven't had much negative impact on wildlife, but have increasingly played a role in research, conservation and engendering excitement about wildlife. I know that my daughter loves the zoo, and it has certainly strengthened her love of and interest in animals.

I think the larger zoos that can afford modern, more humane facilities and that support research and conservation while sparking interest in wildlife (especially in the young) are worth keeping. Also, maintenance of captive populations of several animals in such zoos (and exchange of animals among them) can minimize the need for collection from the wild.

Eliminating smaller zoos with outdated and inhumane facilities would be great, but if we really want to do something to protect the charismatic megafauna, I think the focus should be on shutting down poaching, protecting habitat and giving humans incentives to avoid taking bushmeat.

BG said...

I wish we (meaning humans) could get our act together and realize we had better do something to conserve our natural surroundings as much as possible.

I really fear for the future based on the trends of the recent past.

Best wishes to us all!