I’ve been on a bit of an Orange is the New Black kick lately. I mean, that show is amazing.
So, what’s the closest thing to visiting a minimum-security women’s prison? That’s right, the Smithsonian National Zoo.
I love animals. If like you’re me, you were raised with a menagerie of pets, and you understand the special depth that animals add to your life.
So any chance I get to see animals of any kind, I’m usually pretty stoked. I pet the dogs I meet in the elevator. I talk to the squirrels and birds I see on my walks to work like a delusional Snow White. In Hawaii and Florida I pay sketchy looking street urchins to hold their birds. If Carly Collins hadn’t guilt-tripped me/had a brief intestinal distress I would have ridden elephants in Thailand.
What does this have to do with the Zoo, and prison?
I love being able to see these beautiful animals here in my hometown, and in places I end up traveling. I do feel a pang of guilt when I see these animals in the custody of humans. I’ve read lots of articles and documentaries (Blackfish!) about the mistreatment of animals in captivity. It’s well documented that captivity for wild animals can cause them great mental pain and stress. I mean as I type this blog post my cat is doing some truly weird stuff. I can help but think of the Zoo as a really large fancy jail for the animals. It’s sad to think of what their lives must be like, compared to what they’d be like out in the wild.
But what’s the alternative? Not having Zoos and places like Sea World would make it so millions of people would not be exposed to these creatures. We may have HD television and National Geographic but seeing a Panda stare you down or a Cheetah move stealthily along its enclosure it a sight to see. Watching a grouchy lion dad swat at his annoyingly playful cub son is an experience that can’t be replicated through a screen.
Anyway, I’m sure this is all stuff you’ve probably contemplated at some point. My final thought: the good outweighs the bad. Zoos help with education, experience and conservations. At the very least they inspire the younger generation to go into science and environmental careers.
The National Zoo in particular: it’s pretty good. I think it had improved a great deal in the last couple of years. The enclosures seem larger for the elephants, and all the baby animals are very cute to watch. The baby panda is ridiculously cute. My friend Chris and I went at 0900 on a Sunday– before the herds of parents descended on the park. The animals had just gotten fed/let out so they were extra active and visible. Also, despite the $22 parking per car, it’s free to get in. The parking lot is in the middle of the Zoo, so for me it beats taking the metro and having to walk from the station. If you haven’t been, I’d definitely recommend it for all ages.
Bottom line: Go to the Zoo! Buy some overpriced stuffed animal or outrageously expensive snacks. Help the inmates, it’s good for their morale.