After almost six years of working at a zoo, my last day is tomorrow. For two weeks I have been brainstorming today’s post which I have been composing as an ode to zoos – a workplace where B.O. is often the least offensive odor, feces is an acceptable lunch conversation topic, and everyone is there because they love animals and have resigned themselves to living off Romain Noodles for the rest of their lives.
Then the tragedy in Zanesville, Ohio, occurred.
More a travesty than tragedy really because by setting the animals “free”, Terry Thompson inevitably condemned them to death. 49 animals – 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon – were slaughtered to avoid human casualties.
Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and someone I’ve had the honor of working with, described the event to Diane Sawyer:
“Tragedy-wise for me, it’s probably the worst thing in my 45 years of history of working with animals. I’m sorry to say, but what the sheriff did had to be done. Otherwise, we would have had carnage out here this morning in Zanesville, Ohio.”
Six animals – a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys – remained caged which saved them from the roaming carnivores and the sheriff deputies with shoot to kill orders. These six survivors have been taken to the Columbus Zoo.
I know that someone, somewhere will twist this one man’s sins into a reason why no animal should be in captivity. So I offer my post below, as originally prepared before the horrific event in Zanesville, Ohio.
5 Reasons Why Zoos Matter (in my humble opinion)
- Because they give homes to orphaned, abandoned, and confiscated animals including illegal pets that the SPCA or other organizations or individual people could not care for.
- Because they have the antivenins for all venomous snakes that they work with, antivenins that even hospitals do not keep in stock but will call and ask for to save a citizen’s life or limb.
- Because they are a place that inspires children’s imaginations about the world beyond their own community.
- Because they allow people to see animals not in 2-D, or 3-D, but in reality outside of TV and movies
- Because they give people the opportunity to see an animal larger than themselves in a safe environment, and maybe, just maybe, be humbled in the presence of another living thing.