I am not very keen on zoos… I really feel uncomfortable going and looking at animals not in their natural environments, and not in their natural social groups. I do however understand very well how important good zoos are in their fight to breed animals in captivity which are endangered in the wild and try to reintroduce them back into safer places. Sometimes there are none of a certain species left in their natural habitat, all have been killed, either hunted, or their territories compromised in some way by human activity.
My daughter loves animals so I went with her to Dublin Zoo and I was so impressed by it; we wandered around seeing all different sorts of beasts, and although it still seemed sad that they were enclosed, even if they were in wonderful and natural grounds, they were still essentially caged. We stopped by the rhinoceros enclosure to listen to a talk by a marvellous young keeper. He started off by stating that he didn’t really like to see his rhinoceroses in Ireland but the zoo was working in partnership with Lowveld Rhino Trust in Zimbabwe; rhinos are horribly hunted for their horns which some medicine systems erroneously believe have miraculous healing powers. The poor creatures and hunted and killed or wounded and their beautiful horns cut off and sold mostly to far eastern markets for phenomenally large sums. The keeper didn’t blame the poachers; they receive a pittance for their vile work, and they run the risk of being shot on sight by game wardens. So the charity is trying to get the former hunters to work with them, to hunt the rhinos, but with the aim that tourists should be able to see them. This isn’t as dangerous, provides a regular income for the men who have these tracking skills, which benefits their families, and allows their children to be educated.
The way the keeper explained it put what the zoo was trying to do in context. There are many breeding and conservation programmes at the zoo… however I still felt it wasn’t quite right to be staring at these animals and taking their photos, especially the apes, who are so close to us.
To find out more about the zoo, look here: