Monday, August 8, 2011

“Not Such a Bad Life, Is It?”

…Said the man to his companion on Saturday morning as they watched the gorillas browsing for bamboo. He didn’t say this in a philosophical, questioning way (“It’s not such a bad life, is it?”) but in a confident, jolly tone (“Not such a bad life, is it?”), the same one that people who complain about welfare use when they talk about the grand ol’ time people are having surviving on food stamps.

Now, I am not trying to compare gorillas’ quality of living with that of people on welfare. But I do hate it when anyone who’s not part of a particular group makes vast generalizations and enormous assumptions about that group’s health and happiness.

I myself certainly hope the gorillas have decent lives, and I think the zoo does everything in its power to ensure that this is so. I also find the morning browsing rituals very peaceful to watch, and I believe this is because the gorillas themselves are peaceful in their activities—maybe not at peace, but at least tranquil. Nonetheless, I wish I had told the man: “The simple fact that a gorilla is leaning against the side of his enclosure and munching on leaves does not mean that he has a carefree or easy existence:

“For one thing, he has to deal with daily comments from schmucks like you.”

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


biobabbler said...

Totally agree. Leaning back, eating, in gorilla jail, with a territory a tiny tiny fraction of that to which they are accustomed (either by DNA/inclination or experience), having people stare at you all day. Doesn't sound great to me.

However, apparently it is apparently very comforting for even zoo animals to know that they get enough food, which is terribly rare in the wild. I read some study somewhere that showed they def. see their homes as their homes and given a choice of escaping, they usually don't. They theorized it was the certainty of getting fed that made them want to stay.

I think that was chimps or something, can't imagine a tiger wouldn't gratefully bound away and just RUN 20 miles to stretch out its legs (provided there weren't crowds of freaky people and bizarre, totally altered landscape & cars vs. lush forest).

biobabbler said...

uh, "apparently it is apparently"... eef.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Biobabbler: Hey, it's a comment post--you're allowed the occasional typo!

I agree with you, and I *do* think that if animals are in an environment in which they feel secure, well-nourished, and sufficiently intellectually and/or socially stimulated, then they can be content, especially if they were born in captivity. But that doesn't mean that they'd always choose captivity over the wild, or that even when they would, as with the chimps, they're getting the environment they'd *most* prefer or enjoy. I'm sure that being without spectators is a desire of a number of species at the zoo.

Anca said...

That second photo belies the "happy life." That gorilla (I know it's a he because of the silver back) looks like me listening to the news. Not happy. In fact, mad as hell and ready to punch someone upside the head.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the body language exhibited in the second photo demonstrated by other species in a kitchen in Michigan while a certain governor is being discussed.

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