March 3, 2017
Zoos hold treasures for us to celebrate, but they also are a reminder of our broken world.
First of all I want to say that your article is exactly right, especially on World Wildlife Day. I'm a zookeeper in Oklahoma. I see that you work in Oak Brook, IL; Brookfield Zoo is my "home zoo," and I can assure you that your admission/membership price went in part to help save Hudson Polar Bear's wild cousins. I would say that both the best and worst day of my life would be the day that zoos were no longer needed. That day would mean the wild is finally safe from poachers, human encroachment, pollution, and other human causes that kill and displace animals every day. The animals in my care are ambassadors for their wild cousins. We have keeper chats and presentations daily to show our guests these amazing animals up close. One of the main questions we ask ourselves as zookeepers is how we can both give our animals the best care possible and show our guests how they can help save the wild areas that make up the native ranges of our animals. I know that many people want our animals out in the wild, but how can we foster a love and appreciation for creation and wild places if we can't see a polar bear or an elephant or a sea turtle for ourselves? Not everyone can afford to go to Churchill, Thailand, or Mexico to see wild animals. Zoos are a living classroom where we get to show guests every day the wonders of the natural world and show them ways to help their planet. Like I said, the best and worst day of my life would be the day we didn't need zoos anymore, but until then I love my job, because I get to go to work everyday surrounded by the creation in a way that most people can't. My job gives me fulfillment, and I feel God's blessing in my work.
Have a fantastic day, and say hi to Hudson for me next time you're at Brookfield. :)
This is an amazing perspective of the zoos in our culture. I have a 3 year old myself, and one on the way, but he loves the zoo and my wife does too. Here in Florida we see a lot of exotic animals and my son is at the stage in development where he understands what animals are supposed to be here and which aren't. Personally as a young parent and Christian I just wanted to say I really appreciate this perspective and hope that our culture can learn from it!
I'm wondering whether this author would consider the modern domestication of horses, cows, pigs, cats, dogs, and other animals as our "pillag[ing] and plunder[ing]" them.
And what this author would consider "God's plan for" horses, cows, pigs, cats, dogs, and other animals domesticated in the way we have domesticated them long after Adam and Eve departed Eden.
Tracey, thank you for your insightful post. I , too, have a 5 year old whom we home school, and a zoo just 7 minutes down the road that we visit a couple of times per month. You have articulated our thoughts and discussions perfectly. It does give us some relief to know that many of the animals in our zoo, the Abilene Zoo here in Texas, are rescues that would have surely died if not brought under the care of the loving zoo keepers. I would love to see the vast open grazing lands and sky reaching aviaries that you speak of, and in fact, have been to a couple of "safari" type facilities that are more like this. Safari West in Santa Rosa, Ca. for instance. Of course the big cats, my favorites, are still kept in relatively small enclosures and fed prepared feasts. Katie's comments above are also spot on. I am as guilty as the next person of living in this world somewhat more for my pleasure than is good for the environment as a whole, and the post and comments here have brought that to my heart. Thank you all and God bless. May we all one day be witness to the lion and the lamb who lie down together.
I completely agree with Katie that it is so great that you would speak to this complex matter with both reason and compassion. I'm an animal behaviour researcher at the zoo in Toronto, Canada, and have found it discouraging that
a.) I've found it difficult to find other believers in the zoological community
b.) I've found it difficult to find Christian voices speaking to environmental and, in particular zoological, issues
so I appreciate your comments and Katie's as well. In the wake of last year's Harambee incident it became clear to me through the reactions of Christian people and organizations that I otherwise respect, and usually find helpful, that the church does not understand, and is unprepared to deal with, the zoological issues of the world today, and we need more people speaking to it with insight as you have. I wholly agree with what Katie has said here, too. Zoos mark the convergence of centuries of economical, ecological, entertainment, societal, psychological and theological issues into a single place, and the complexities of maturely discussing them can hardly be underestimated. That being said, your post above is a fantastic and balanced intro to these issues. Thank you.
The state of present-day zoos is not what I wish it was, but I definitely see some encouraging progress on many fronts. That being said, change is necessary, and to justify their existence in western society in the 21st century zoos MUST be willing to change - often a very expensive proposition in an already cash-strapped field.
I have met God more consistently at the zoo than anywhere else in the world, and think that you beautifully expressed ideas that I have felt for most of my life (as well as important facts!). Thank you and God continue to bless you in serving Him through your work. Drop me a line if you're ever in Toronto!
In Reply to Gabe Magnus (comment #30105)
Thanks, Gabe! Same to you if you're ever near OKC!
I have grown up going to several different zoo's. Recently over the past couple of years I have been able to see the unbrokenness of this world regarding how some animals have to live in captivity to save their species one thing I would like to see in the next 10 years is animals environments expanding. I do not think we will be able to live in a world with no zoos but I dont necessarily think that is a bad thing. I have learned so much and have been able to see God in many different ways at different zoos.
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