Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The quandaries of an animal lover

As I'm sure anyone who reads this blog knows, I am an animal lover. After reading the story of the whale Tilikum killing one of the trainers, I am once again thrown into confusion.

On the one hand I have been to SeaWorld and seen the Shamu show, and loved it. It was so cool. On the other hand, I thought it very sad seeing such huge creatures kept in tanks too small for them. They're not "small", but compared to a life of exploring the ocean, it's small. It doesn't surprise me that such a large whale saw a dangling ponytail and decided to play with it. The whale didn't understand he was killing a trainer - it was just doing what it does.

I love going to zoos and seeing my favourite creatures up close, and being able to interact with them, but it breaks my heart when zoos have no animal conservation plans in place, aren't trying to give back to the animal kingdom, and don't plan enclosures that keep with the natural environment.

I kind of assumed at SeaWorld they used mostly rescue animals and trained them up - in fact I hadn't really thought about it too much. Then I read that Tilikum has fathered 10+ offspring in his time at SeaWorld. Really?? I know that the conservation status of killer whales is considered "data deficient" due to so many unknowns. I am very interested to know if Tilikum's offspring were released into the wild, or kept as show animals. As far as I'm concerned, the only animals that should be bred in captivity are those that are of a Threatened or near threatened conservation status.

The best zoo I have ever been to is Singapore Zoo. It truly is fantastic, and it's also the reason I now don't like going to other zoos - nothing can compare. For a start, they put a lot of effort into conservation initiatives and breeding programs. According to their website "To better meet the healthcare needs of its animals and working towards its aspiration to become a leading global centre of excellence for veterinary healthcare and research, a purpose-built Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre was set up in March 2006."

Walking through Singapore was an amazing experience. All of the enclosures were size and animal appropriate, and each animal had a good write-up of the species, location etc. I've been to some zoos where it will have the name of the animal, and that's it. The other thing I loved was that it was very interactive. A lot of the animals had feeding times, and you could join the Feeding Trails, where a keeper would feed a few different animals in the one area. This is one of the Afternoon Feeding Trail schedules:

Polar Bear
White Rhino
African Lion
Treetops Trail
White Tiger
Pygmy Hippo

So you would just follow the keeper around, and they would do a short feeding of each animal and give detailed information about the animals, and you could ask questions along the way, and I found we learnt so much more about the animals this way. You could pretty much stay with different Feeding Trails all day if you wanted to. That was probably the thing that impressed me most. It was so interactive - not with the animals themselves, although there was plenty of opportunities to feed different animals along the way, but with the keepers, and you could watch all the animals being fed. A fabulous learning experience and gave us a much better appreciation for the animals.

The other zoo I really enjoyed was Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia. Because there was so much space, they had room to create huge spaces for the big animals, where they could graze happily. There were almost no fences as such, just moats, or ditches or whatever was necessary to keep animals in and people out! We hired bikes for the day and got around like that, and it was well and truly worth it to see the big animals in a more natural environment.

On the contrary, I think the worst zoo I have been to was Bronx Zoo in New York. It was about 10 years ago now, and I hated it. Each animal was in a tiny cage. Birds of prey were kept in small cages. Pack animals were on their own. There was no education of the animals themselves. It was packed with people, there was no keepers around, and the zoo seemed more intent on making money through selling hot dogs and merchandise than providing an educational experience. I felt sick after going there. I hope that things have improved there since.

But back to the event that set this off, I've been annoyed reading reports of PETA demanding for the whale's release, and other groups demanding the whale's euthanasia. The whale CANNOT be released, because it's been in captivity too long, and putting him to sleep is also unthinkable - in the wild, killer whales are no threat to humans. WE brought the whale into captivity, WE pay to see him perform, WE make SeaWorld dependent on those shows to make money, so WE the human race are the ones to blame, not the whale.

Busy busy!

The month of February has just flown by! The main things that happened:

  • I had my second trimester echo and also got an EKG due to some palpitations I'd been getting. Everything is looking great, and my heart is holding strong - woo!
  • We spent a fair bit of time just tidying up and organising the house.
  • We went and saw the Cirque du Soleil show Ovo in San Jose, which was fabulous.
  • Work got started on our kitchen remodel. The old kitchen has been ripped out, the walls patched up and repainted, new circuits installed, and recessed lighting installed. The cabinets have arrived, and tomorrow they'll start installing them.
  • Andrew and I went to New York. I stayed for 3 and a bit days, Andrew was there for a week. We had a lovely time walking through Central Park, catching up with friends, and also got to go down to Philadelphia for a day to explore there. We really enjoyed it, and are glad we can cross another city and state off our To Do list :-) Photos are here for Philadelphia, and here for Andrew's snowy days in New York after I left.
All the baby stuff is coming along. I hit my third trimester yesterday, so getting closer and closer to the due date which is exciting. I'm definitely feeling more tired these days, and am starting to get more random aches and pains and little complaints. She's an active little thing though, so it's nice to feel her wriggle around regularly :)

We've bought a crib, and today I bought a stack of gDiapers, which will be a nice alternative to old school cloth, but with the convenience of disposables. I still need to get a glider chair for nursing/soothing, and some decorations for the little one's room. I'll probably get a bunch of these cute animal print cards from Wee Gallery, and maybe some of their wall graphics too. I need to get some curtains for her room, and then I think that's about it, we should be good.

I'd love to get one of these mamaroo bouncers, which look awesome, but are kinda pricey. For the moment I'm just trying to win one :D