Captivating, or Captive?

What is it that intrigues us so much about animals? Especially exotic animals?

As a child, I remember taking class trips into the city to visit the zoo and being so excited that I could barely sleep the night before. And now, I see that same excitement in the eyes of my own children. Maybe it’s because of the rarity of so many of these animals to us Westerners, or maybe it’s because it lets us spend a short amount of time in a dream world of lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

But as adults, I hear an all-too-often refrain of sadness after we parents visit zoos and other animal parks, perhaps because we come face-to-face with the reality that we are in essence paying an admission to view prisoners with a life sentence.

This year, the Toronto zoo lost a long and difficult fight against keeping its elephants. A fight that was led by none other than Bob Barker. At first I was sympathetic to the arguments for keeping them here, after all, they’d been here for years. But after watching a very interesting documentary on the transportation of these animals to their new home in California, and learning that they are used to travelling dozens of kilometres per day vs being penned up in a 1sq kilometre pen, my opinion of the battle quickly changed.

We also have a water park called Marineland, which had come under extreme scrutiny over the past year for the horrific  conditions in which it kept its animals. Over the span of several weeks, nearly every animal trainer at Marineland had quit and confirmed that the allegations were true.

The only positive I feel that I can take from these visits with my children is that they can be a great learning experience for our young generation. It gives them the opportunity to explore parts of our world that they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to do, and it potentially plants the seed for the next Jane Goodall.

I know that many of you live in parts of the world where there are renowned zoos and sanctuaries, so it would be fantastic to get your opinions and insights.

As always, thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  1. I’ve been to good zoos and bad ones. You can tell the places that are trying to care for the animals vs. the ones who are out just to make a profit. It’s sometimes hard to tell if the animals are truly happy or not but you do see that some just don’t like it. It’s nice when they give the animals a large area that mimics a natural environment. I never like the places that force them into a caged area with a concrete floor. Great shots Shane!

  2. You’re spot on with the tinge of sadness when visiting zoos as an adult. That’s the very reason that I haven’t actually been to a zoo since I was a child. I have no doubt that there are fantastic zoos that look after their animals, but the whole concept of capturing animals and shoving them into climates and environments that are clearly unsuitable, just so we can ogle them seems so…. barbaric?

  3. I like this series Shane. I took note of your editing style in the photos, which seems dark, moody. Perhaps a reflection of your own opinion of zoos?

  4. Gorgeous Polar Bear shot Shane! You know my sentiments on zoos…my youngest son LOVES the zoo. He can’t get enough, my husband has to take him, I just feel awful the entire time I am there.
    Of course, it is important for all generations to get an opportunity to see what lies beyond their own small footprint on this planet. I am not sure how to expose folks to these creatures without zoos, seeing them on a video or documentary just isn’t the same as smelling them, watching them care for their young, hearing their calls and sounds. That leaves much more of an impression. And, allows for great conversations about “we are not alone” nor can we act as if we are on this planet.

  5. I’m not a fan of zoos or circuses especially when it comes to large creatures. But without getting into all that in my comment………..Shane…your portrait of the chimpanzee made me cry. It is SO GOOD. Reading your words and then seeing that face…it evoked emotion in me so strong. I love animals a whole lot and I just wish mankind would realize they need to be loved and cherished….they are unconditional love. 🙂

    1. Laura, thank you so much, but I never intended for anyone to cry. However it really means a lot to me that it invoked such emotion. I would have loved to have show that she was behind glass, but I wasn’t quite prepared for such a close-up.

      1. You’re welcome and no worries…it was a good cry. I just love animals so much…the close up of him (or her) was just wonderful. :)))))))

  6. Zoo back home, in Pakistan is not in a great condition. But that doesn’t keep the swarm of spectators from coming. Now that I am in Toronto, I went to the Zoo last year. It was a nice experience but like you said, we were paying to watch helpless, caged animals. The whole concept is disturbing. But then how else to go about it?

    1. Ya, I’m sure there aren’t very many zoos that are in stellar condition. The Toronto Zoo hasn’t had any major issues that I can remember hearing about so I think the animal conditions are as good as they can be.

  7. not a big fan of the zoo, for the very reason you cited, Shane. Had a pretty frank discussion with my 8 year old yesterday, about why I will never take him to Marineland.

  8. There are certainly some zoos who do good things with breeding programs and education programs, but of course the idea of keeping animals in enclosures, no matter how good, is inferior to our ideal for them. Fortunately animals do not have the same level of emotional experience as we humans,(that’s not to say they don’t experience emotions at all, we know they do) so perhaps for them, it is not as horrible as we think it might be. One time, about 40 years ago, I was living overseas and was terribly homesick. I was in Rome and took myself off to a small zoo there. It restored some equilibrium to see some of the same animals there as I used to see as a child in the zoo about an hour from where I grew up. It was curiously comforting, and still in my memory after all these years. Nice photos, Shane.

    1. Wow, that’s a great story… thank you for sharing. I agree with your points and I guess I could add that is probably beneficial for the endangered species that are able to live on in our zoos.

  9. These are beautiful photos, Shane!! I haven’t been to the zoo in such a long time, and this was such a fun trip down memory lane, but with much better sightlines 🙂 I’m so impressed over the diversity of subject matter you have been sharing with us – all displaying your wonderful artistic and photographic talents!

      1. Hi, Shane! First, no, I’m still not home. In Colorado at the moment, and in a few days, off to Wyoming for a week. My internet connection has been spotty, so my ability to comment and reply has been sporadic (I’m grateful for the post scheduler that allowed me to put together a few posts before hitting the road so I could keep somewhat on the grid.)

        Anyway, I have to admit that I looked at your photos and replied to your post before having the ability to digest the true subject matter of your post. I haven’t been to a zoo in many decades, but the ones I visited as a child were ones I remember as being clean and open air and, in my child’s eye, wonderful habitats for animals. I often, though, wondered about how content they could be in this artificial habitat.

        As a lover of animals, hearing stories of animals in captivity being mistreated just tears at my heartstrings. Even reading the comments left here made me sad. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and again, your beautiful photos.

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