...perfectly legal to keep a chimp in a broom closet...
August 7, 2002 7:20 PM   Subscribe

...perfectly legal to keep a chimp in a broom closet... What happens to zoo animals when they get old and unphotogenic? When the zoo needs to make room for these? (sadness-making warning)
posted by amberglow (23 comments total)
(shamelessly pandering to old-time mefis but i know you guys could give them good homes)
posted by amberglow at 7:23 PM on August 7, 2002

That is sad and the (in)human(e) don't-want-to-know factor just makes it worse. When I was a child, older animals were the main attractions - they still are at Lisbon Zoo. But that's sad in its own way too.

Is there any zoo equivalent to the sanctuary movement for retired "research" primates?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:50 PM on August 7, 2002

Miguel, i think most of us here in the U.S. see zoos as a sort of sanctuary, especially compared to those roadside attractions mentioned in the article. I know I always assumed that animals in zoos stay there until they die--which is sad enough in itself.
posted by amberglow at 7:57 PM on August 7, 2002

No, no, no, no, no! You don't get to give away your pets just because they get old and that goes double for zoos. In fact, no responsible zoo keeper should allow reproduction unless there is room for the offspring. I like to see old elephants and grizzled giraffes and greying orangutans aging comfortably in their homes in the zoo. The oldsters seem to demand (and deserve) our respect.

On a sidenote, I remember being very surprised when the Exotic Animal trade show came to Raleigh last winter. Along with the usual snakes, frogs and hedgehogs, they advertised a zebra for sale to the public.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:21 PM on August 7, 2002

And *they* wonder where the A.L.F. is coming from? Sorta reminds me of the treatment of Greyhounds once they have served their purposes. May the mutant puppeteers with flaming feet dance on the rotting scrotums of these debased syphilitic piles of vomit.
posted by Mack Twain at 8:23 PM on August 7, 2002

A least most zoos don't force the animals in their care to perform, unlike Sea World.
posted by cnx at 8:26 PM on August 7, 2002

I think that's what shocked me more than the bad treatment at non-zoos; that zoos can just offload animals...
posted by amberglow at 8:30 PM on August 7, 2002

And to think of all the weekends I spent in New Braunfels. Next time I go back, I'm doing some monkey-freein'.

People are just no damn good.
posted by ColdChef at 8:37 PM on August 7, 2002

"There may be more pet tigers in Texas alone than survive in the wild worldwide" - The only humorous part of a sad, sad article. USNEWS did some great writing here, the reporter's tone was rather irate. I bet the zoo people gave the writer the royal run-about before they finally found enough to make it into an article.

And I thought the USDA just inspected beef...
posted by Happydaz at 8:49 PM on August 7, 2002

Damn. I HATE zoos. You remember all the fuss made over the "Lion of Kabul"? How screwed up is it that most people have no idea this shit goes on in the US.
posted by acridrabbit at 8:52 PM on August 7, 2002

This is just another reason why zoos basically suck.

I don't remember who said it first, but someone (smarter than myself) once wrote that on the basis of personal experience, he had no proof that Calcutta existed. He'd never been there personally, and had never even spoken to anyone who had been there. He had no doubt, though, that Calcutta existed, because he could read about it, see pictures (admittedly, not proof) and appreciate it without a first-hand encounter.

It should be the same way with "wild" animals. I have no doubt that the platypus (to take an extreme example) exists, although I have never seen one, and I have never met anyone who has seen one in person. I do not need to have one ripped from the wild, and kept in an unnatural environment for the rest of its days, to appreciate the incredible singularity of the species. It should be the same with any other species that is better left undisturbed and undomesticated, from the great cats to the smallest tree frog. We humans are an invasive and curious species, and some of us will eventually see and know all there is to know about all the wondrous creatures that share this earth with us. For my part, I can accept the reports of those who do; I do not want or need individual examples kept in cages to show that such wonder exists.
posted by yhbc at 9:06 PM on August 7, 2002

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I like zoos. I cherish many great memories. Hearing the lions roar and watching the meercats frolic at the LA Zoo. Seeing the penguins slide on ice at Sea World. Watching the giraffes run (very nearly) free at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Whenever I am in a new city I try to get to the zoo. I've seen a few bad ones, of course, but I think over all the movement in zookeeping is toward fewer animals, more natural habitats and larger spaces.

I also think every child should have the experience of seeing monkeys, elephants, and giraffes in person. And while zoos are lots of fun, it is amazing how much you can learn in one afternoon. I imagine over the years zoos have inspired many young naturalists, biologists, and vets.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:36 PM on August 7, 2002

Watching the giraffes run (very nearly) free at the San Diego Wild Animal Park
sorry secret, wouldn't it have been better for the giraffe to be (really) free instead of "(very nearly)"?

I'm no PETA member, but i think at the absolute very least we can take proper care of animals we capture and imprison for our amusement and education--for their whole sad and unnatural lives
posted by amberglow at 10:02 PM on August 7, 2002

Hmm. I am a member of both the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Zoo. They run innovative conservation and education projects . I see a Zoo's main role as education, both for the attendees and for the zookeepers themselves. They can study animals, learn how to meet their needs.

I think there is a big difference between an atrociously run zoo like Kabul, and San Diego.

And I would say, Amberglow, that the Wild Animal Park is definitely taking proper care of the animals. I am surprised at how well they do every time I'm there.

I think you have to see a zoo realistically, in terms of the state of the world's environment and the threats to many species. Having a caring environment is a lot better than being killed so someone can make a keychain out of your foot.*

Boy, did I learn that the hard way. If anyone runs across a Size 12 with longish toenails in a souvenir shop, do let me know
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:02 PM on August 7, 2002

Several people have made the point that zoos provide a valuable resource in terms of managing and perpetuating highly endagered species, sanctuaries for animals liberated from the exotic pet black and grey markets, etc...

However, they also provide for a wider, social purpose. To go off of yhbc's post, although you may accept the existence of Calcutta, you don't necesarily give a flying &@$% at a rolling doughnut about it or its inhabitants. Or, at the very least, your own family, neighbours, and fellow citizens seem much, much more important. If you actually visited Calcutta, however, you would almost certainly gain an appreciation for the intricate stew of cultures, languages, ethnicities, and beliefs that it is.

In other words, for that portion of the society that needs to see and hear animals first-hand in order to care, I believe the evils of a well-run zoo are far outweighed by the good they do. Note the well-run bit, though. ;)


The first time I mentioned my desire to live in Calcutta (as well as several other major urban centers of the world) for six months to a year, my friends looked at me as if I'd proclaimed my undying love for a blue spork.
posted by kavasa at 4:38 AM on August 8, 2002

I don't know about Calcutta, but I've been to the zoo in Chennai (Madras), and -- though the caged monkeys are cute -- the animals on display are not treated very well. I wonder, with all the educational resources already available to developed countries, if it's really all that necessary to display animals for such purposes.

We've managed to eliminate some animal testing by using newer technology. Couldn't we do the same for animal exhibition?
posted by VulcanMike at 6:42 AM on August 8, 2002

Kafkaesque -- San Diego is one of the zoos implicated in the USNWR article. That was one of the things that disappointed me the most.
posted by briank at 6:50 AM on August 8, 2002

If you actually visited Calcutta, however,

why go to Calcutta? why aren't there any Calcuttans in the zoos? then, with only a 30 minute drive from home, i can learn to appreciate their culture and all that (while standing safely separated by bars, or thick glass, and/or a big moat).
posted by tolkhan at 7:39 AM on August 8, 2002

If even prestigious zoos like San Diego and the Bronx Zoo are dumping animals (for any reason), shouldn't we be seeing that as a problem? and as a sign that maybe we should reexamine our practices regarding other species? Vulcan has a good point (and tolkhan too) In the 19th century exotic people used to be on display in London, etc...and Barnum used to show people here in NY...we outgrew that
posted by amberglow at 7:51 AM on August 8, 2002

San Diego is one of the zoos implicated in the USNWR article.

That'll teach me to read the whole article.
posted by Kafkaesque at 8:48 AM on August 8, 2002

Ok, you're correct tolkhan, in that the parallel isn't perfect. Obviously, Calcutta is a city, and as such it's rather impossible to export it, thus necessitating a visit to get that "Woah - this is a real place with real people" feeling. Animals, however, you can export. And if the draw of seeing exotic animals gets 70% of the population educated about dangers to those same animals, the environment, and what they can do to help, I maintain that it's worth it. See, you need support from the great unwashed masses in causes such as preserving exotic animals and biomes, and zoos are a great way to do that. I see the alternative to zoos as being an uneducated, indifferent public that just simply won't care when South American rainforests are turned, en masse, into parking lots and Home Depots.
posted by kavasa at 1:28 PM on August 8, 2002

fwiw I have an email in to the San Diego Zoo, in which I ask them to explain these practices, and if they are continuing. I also make it clear that I would have serious doubts about continuing my membership if these claims are true.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2002

That's great Kafka!
I think that's the only way things will change.
I grew up very close to The Bronx Zoo and i've already emailed them...no response yet tho....
posted by amberglow at 11:26 AM on August 9, 2002

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