the zoo problem


Of course, zoos have both passionate supporters and outright opponents. But most people, like me, occupy a middle ground: delighting at the squirrel monkeys chasing each other’s tails, but shamed by the bored and contemptuous glance of the gorilla. Zoos embody the dilemmas of our relationship to a nature that we strive to control, for good and frequently for ill. These dilemmas provide the common thread to four fascinating books on the lives of animals in captivity. The central dilemma is of course whether to keep animals removed from their natural habitats at all: to do so allows us to come closer to them, but only in an environment that seems unnatural and impoverished. In Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity, the investigative journalist David Kirby poses this question in the context of a very particular kind of zoo: the oceanariums and marine mammal parks in which some of the most sophisticated and spectacular of animals can be seen.

more from Stephen Cave at the FT here.