GRAHAM TURNER: More than just a place to ‘gawp’
By happy coincidence my daughter returned home from ‘The North’ for a short break last week, while I also had a few days off work.
With the rest of the family more gainfully employed, it left the pair of us looking for things to do and brought back memories of happy times 20 years ago when she was a toddler and I worked a shift pattern that meant I was at home – and in charge of childcare – a couple of days a week.
I didn’t expect to find myself having to entertain a 24-year-old on my week off, so I fell back on an old favourite ... a trip to the zoo.
In an ideal world, zoos would not exist and I’d sign any petition calling for them to be abolished.
Keeping animals in enclosures, however big and fancy, is not right and they belong in the wild in their natural habitat. But there’s the rub – mankind is destroying habitats at a horrifying rate and our wildlife is disappearing with them.
Unfortunately, I don’t see this changing – the supertanker is set on its course and even if campaigners are successful, deviation will be slow and minimal. So, however uncomfortable we may feel about them, zoos are one of the ways we can protect species, running captive breeding programmes in the hope that a population can be maintained to perhaps, one day, be released back into the wild.
But zoos are costly places to run and none would survive without the paying public coming through the gates to gawp at the animals.
I have to admit I winced a number of times during our visit as children shrieked (interestingly, like monkeys) and adults showed almost complete ignorance.The animals ‘on display’ deserve a bit more respect than that.
But I didn’t feel completely despondent, hoping that if just a few of the youngsters who trailed round, noses pressed against the glass, were affected by what they saw, then the zoo may have done its job and inspired the next generation to try to do something about the damage we’re doing to the world.
And though the visit didn’t quite rekindle the wonder my ‘toddler’ and I first experienced on days out 20 years ago, we came away feeling happy that the animals were at least being well-cared for and, when it comes down to it, who can resist a baby meerkat?