Saturday, May 16, 2009

Captive Audience

We took a couple of cloudy hours Saturday afternoon and visited one of Springfield's finest gems; Forest Park. As far as I'm concerned, the biggest gem within that gem, is the Forest Park Zoo.



Some people consider zoos barbaric. And while I fully understand the sentimentality, I still feel that the sense of awe and wonder at seeing some of these animals so close and alive always overrides most compunctions I might have; at least temporarily. It's a shame and yes even cruel to force animals with natural territorial ranges of dozens of square miles or limitless sky to confinement of a few caged square yards.

But where else would I or anyone else ever see a live leopard only five feet away, padding silently about and stopping to sniff the air for prey...



...or a cougar, another animal here built to track, kill and eat...Nature's cold calculations, personified.



Wolves move in teams and with such easy trotting speed that even the thought of outrunning one in the woods would be a non-starter. See a pack of these looking at you, give it up; you're done.



Anywhere besides a zoo and these predators would have been the last thing you ever see, if you even saw them coming at all. It's fascinating to be able to look into their eyes and live to tell about it. So, I put zoos down as a learning experience at best, a necessary evil at worst. For all our technology and advancement, there still is no better substitute to bring animals from around the world for observation by the average human.

Forest Park Zoo has several cages with primates in them. These Black Handed Spider Monkeys don't have an opposable thumb, but can use their long tails like an extra hand. They sprint along the upper tiers of their cages with amazing dexterity and gravity defiance...like spiders...



I love watching the monkeys. It's like looking into the past to where we came from. I imagine how the first human ancestors might have acted, what separated them from the rest of the primate world. How even being a primate and evolving with the unique ability in the animal world to grasp and climb with such swift agility gave us such an edge for survival...



It's almost comforting to know that there are other animals on this planet so similar to ourselves, like lost brothers showing us that as a species we are not here alone. And showing us that as animals, we still might not be of much more importance than they are, in the great scheme of things...



It's hard to belive that with their DNA only about 1% or so different than ours, we're far more alike than not. And, that that measley 1% makes all the difference in the world, for our future and theirs...



The zoo was very clean and the animals all appeared to be well cared for. Many of the animals are at least teamed up with companions in their confinement.





Probably a small comfort, but comfort none the less...



Some of the more tragic captives are the large birds, like this Golden Eagle. It can only be hoped that some of these animals' small brains can adapt to captivity and forget, or maybe never even know, what it is like to soar in the sky...



Some animals almost seem ready made to be observed by the curious...



...or give the illusion of being too cute and helpless to ever survive in the wild at all...



But they do, all creatures, great or small...



The local king of the forest, the Black bear, is represented at the zoo by this 500 pound behemoth. I couldn't imagine running into one of these guys in the hills around here and maintaining any kind of bladder control...



Again, to be able to look into this massive wild monster's eyes, just an arm's length away, is one of the marvels provided only by a zoo...



But at the same time, to look into it's eyes, is to understand that this is not where he belongs.

5 comments:

Mary E.Carey said...

I didn't even know there WAS a zoo in Springfield. You're sympathetic meditation on the eagle made me feel sorry for him or her.

Tony said...

Hmmm...My thoughts lean to the melodramatic, late at night. I'd better watch that..!

cookingwithdadtv said...

Tony,

Great stuff, I really like reading your blog and look forward to your next one. Your keeping us in touch with thing we sometimes forget are in W. MA.

Manny.

RebeccaMA said...

I keep meaning to visit this place. Thanks for the reminder!

Tony said...

Thanks Manny...

And no problem, Rebecca. There's another one in Ludlow, the Lupa Zoo (Nash Hill Road), that I think is at least as good as Forest Park's, we'll be hitting that one soon....