Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, has its pluses and minuses (most holidays innocently suffer from the tendency we have to overdo things). Thanksgiving as a practice, a daily or just occasional reflective practice, can only be good. Today I reflect thankfully on the young animal in the video above (click to spend a minute or so viewing it). At first glance you might think it is a puppy. In the video it is clearly in a dog crate, and its facial expressions and movements could just as well be that of a small husky or shepherd dog, or even a mut.
It is a young bear cub. If you want to know its story, click above. The story in that video coincides with the story below.
This leopard kitten was found recently separated from its mother in a protected forest area in Kerala, and I happened to be in the right location at the right moment to witness what happens in such cases if our modern world is working at its best. I learned something in the process, and that has completely changed my view on zoos (for which, this thanksgiving reflection). The coincidence is that both the bear cub and the leopard kitten enlightened me within days of each other, and within that same set of days I had just been listening to a story on Radio Lab on the topic of zoos; all that, just at the time when my calendar reminds me each year (the last Thursday of November) to reflect on what I am thankful for.
I have many things to give thanks for, so this is a proxy. The feline baby was inspected by a veterinarian doctor and found to be in fine health. No one knew why or how it was separated from its mother, but it had no chance of survival in the wild. In this case, its only chance of survival is at a zoo. Same story as the bear cub in Peru. I have always found zoos to be depressing, a topic for a separate. But for this one purpose, at minimum, zoos can mean the difference between life and death for a wild animal.
May I recommend a few minutes more of your time on this topic? Click the Radio Lab banner below to go to this amazing story about a zoo.
Is there such thing as a good cage? Happy gorillas, deft landscape architects, and neurologists show us that there just might be. We go back to the late 1970s to relive the moment when zoos began to change. Literally, the moment, that the modern zoo was born, as embodied by a few tentative steps of a gorilla named Kiki. That story told by zoo director David Hancocks, architect Grant Jones, and gorilla keeper Violet Sunde. Then we’ll hear about work done by neuroscientists Elizabeth Gould at Princeton and Fernando Nottebohm at Rockefeller who are looking into the brain to see the effects of living in a cage.