Monday, November 5, 2012

What Happened

I’m sure most of you have already read or heard about the horrible incident at the Pittsburgh Zoo, where a poor little boy died after he fell into the wild-dog enclosure and was mauled.

The zoo exhibit was found to meet all required safety standards; nonetheless, any number of people have apparently already vented their opinions online, condemning the zoo or condemning the mother, who held her son over the railing at the exhibit.

It seems extraordinarily insensitive and cruel, not to mention inaccurate, to accuse a parent during one of these cases—after all, I’ve seen tons of people hold their kids on or over railings that they shouldn’t at the zoo—and, it’s true, they shouldn’t do that, and probably more people will think twice now about doing so—but I’ve seen tons of kids not get hurt by this. Not a good practice, but surely not the time or place to blame an individual parent who has suffered such a devastating loss.

What this did make me think of, though, is what I’ve mentioned before when describing one of my concerns about zoos: that they make us, the observers, feel entitled—to be entertained by the animals, to get to see them as close up as we want to, and to be safe from them. And of course we do expect that—we’re not on safari or traveling in the wilds. But I think we become lulled into a too strong sense of complacency sometimes.

I’m not saying that this happened in this particular case—I don’t know anything about this beyond what I’ve read. But the incident did make that concern come to mind. And it makes me sad, too, because all of the good work that zoos do to convince the public not to revile various predators—I’m sure much of that has been undone too.

My heart goes out to the family of that little boy. And I also hope this won’t have negative repercussions for the zoo, provided that it was applying every safety measure it could.

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

1 comment:

Anca said...

And, however horrifying the incident, let's not take it out on the animals, either, who didn't ask to be there--we humans decided their fate, and they only act according to their instincts.

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