On captivity and conservation

I love the zoo. I love taking photographs at the zoo. For lack of a better word, the experience, uh, captivates me.

I do struggle with the idea of these beautiful, terrible, awesome, powerful creatures locked up behind their walls and fences. I find it absurd the way we attempt to recreate natural habitats by painting the Serengeti on the wall. So much of it is not for the animals’ benefit, but for ours.

That said, I do believe that good zoos put the animals at the front of what of they do. I think they do valuable and often necessary conservation and education work. The few black and white photos here are from the Bronx Zoo circa 2003-2004. The Bronx Zoo is incredible, and if you live in New York and haven’t been, you’re missing out. (We are members, and I go several times a year. I always learn something new.)

All of this is to say that I have an if not conflicted then tangled relationship with zoos. And that feeling usually manifests itself as humor. I can’t look at these pictures without laughing. I don’t know if I can put thumb on it precisely, but I simply find the whole experience funny. I have a lot of “who’s watching who?” moments, both with the animals and with the other people there.

Please let me know what you think.

Most of these were taken at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in little Rhody. Dating back to 1872, it’s one of the oldest zoos in the country. It’s not exactly the Bronx Zoo, but it has it’s moments. Trixie, the polar bear pictured here, died shortly after my visit. She was 19 years old and died during a planned move to the Indianapolis Zoo. Ironically, Trixie was being transferred as part of a large renovation and renewal project for Roger Williams.

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