Today is a holiday, as the organization I work for is closed. Calvin’s creche is also closed as it keeps the same schedue. So what to do on an autumn Tuesday? The weather has been a little drizzly and threatens more of the same. The weather forecasts showers in the evening. So I plan to bite the bullet and fulfill a ‘To do’ on my New York list.
It’s a ‘To do’ that I think Calvin will get an even bigger kick out of than I: visiting the Bronx Zoo. Truth be told, I have “been to the zoo” once before. It was in a kayak in 03, and we got to paddle the Bronx River, right past the bison. Very cool, but I didn’t consider that going to the zoo.
In the ensuing years, I’ve been a willing procrastinator. On one hand I have so many warm memories of happy Saturdays at the zoo with my dad. It was our weekly treat. On the other, I also grew up getting to see many of those same animals in the wild — at least the ones native to Africa’s biomes. We always understood that being an animal at the zoo was not the career path any of the ‘inmates’ might have chosen.
Today it might be argued that “the wild” is no longer the boundary-less environment that defines the term, such that there’s simply no wild left. But I’m comfortable with arguing that pockets of sufficient size exist, whether they be akin to the well managed, private reserves such as Amakhala (6,000 hectares), to the great transfrontier parks like Kgalagadi (3.8 million hectares bridging Botswana and South Africa) and Great Limpopo (35,000 square kilometres between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe), which call to my conservation soul.
So as a parent I find myself in a quandry. Is taking my child to the 265 acre, world renown, very well managed Bronx Zoo a betrayal of my conservation principles or not? Well, of course, I am rationalizing away — along the lines of it providing Calvin and I with an opportunity to learn about and appreciate these animals.
Most sentimentally put, these animals are ambassadors for their kin, ones whose lives have been sacrificed to captivity with the sole purpose of educating the many. If you believe author Bill Mckibben’s thesis that if humans do not have direct contact with nature we will cease to care for it, then running a well-managed zoo is ever-more important in today’s world. Instead of playing intellectual gymnastics, I should be pragmatically grateful that I live within visiting distance of one of the world’s best.