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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Zoo Animal's Plea

"[P]lease remember that I am a living, breathing creature.  I can feel pain, anger, joy, and sorrow.  There are things that please me and things that scare me.  I may be looking at you from the other side of the fence, but my job is to help you understand things, and I deserve your respect no matter my size, shape, or place in the world."

Sometimes (okay, often) I complain about the things that visitors say when the visit our zoo, there being many things that I find particularly annoying. At the end of the day, however, I don't really care as much about what they say as what they do... especially when what they do frightens, stresses, or even endangers the animals that I work with.

It's not that (most of these) people are malicious.  Some are, but flat-out sadists are too few and too far-between to cause too much trouble.  Instead, it's just that a lot of people don't know or understand that our animals, from the great apes and bears to the frogs and fishes, are living creatures with feelings.  They deserve to be treated with compassion and respect, just as we would treat another person.  After dealing with a particular trying person (banging on the glass, chasing the free-roaming peafowl, feeding the bears), I just hold my head and wish I could think of a way to make some of these people understand.

I came across this piece recently and absolutely loved it.  It sums up what I wish I could convey to many visitors.  It says what needs to be said without being sharp, or angry, or hostile - though sometimes every keeper feels that way towards misbehaving visitors.  Instead, it speaks plainly and honestly about how (we think) our animals feel, and how they should be treated.

If you enjoy it, check out the rest of the author's blog here - I have, and found it to be very interesting with lots of great photographs.  Enjoy!
Juvenile Masai giraffe, Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, FL.  Copyright Audrey R. Smith 2013.

From the Perspective of Captive Wildlife: A Zoo Animal's Plea 

I wrote this years ago, after a particularly frustrating day of telling visitors to the zoo where I worked not to throw things to the animals, to take their child off the perimeter fence over the alligator exhibit, please stop making monkey sounds or “here kitty kitty” calls to the animals, etc…All the things that come with working at a zoo.  Some days you say that stuff more than others, and this day, I had to ask myself, “How could I put the animals’ situations in a way that people would understand that they are being rude?  That coming to the zoo is not a free-for-all for those who enter, and that they need to exhibit (pun!) at least a small amount of decorum; after all, they are “visitors,” or “guests.”  So here is what every animal in every zoo wishes the visitors would bear (another pun!) in mind when they walk through the zoo gates…

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