Friday, 14 October 2016

Harambechosis... a perfectly legitimate psycological complaint... or not.

BOOM! First post of 2016! I'm on fire!

I haven't written in some time, but as I said, I won't be writing for the sake of it, and I've been mega busy fighting the forces of evil, deck scrubbing, fruit chopping my way to nirvana & etc.. anyway forcing posts is pointless and that's never what this blog was about.

Please excuse the lack of hilarious pictures, no time to candy coat a post today, just boring old words, sorry.

OK, Just one... here's a baby tapir, take 10 seconds of cute and move on... there will be no more.

However, yesterday I heard of an otherwise routine sounding gorilla escape and the usual unresearched media overreaction which is to be expected in these post blackfish days. In fact the one notable fact about the articles I read was the fact that there were in fact, very few actual facts. In fact 90% of the sensational content was made out of teenagers twitter responses rather than any respectable information. Don't get me wrong, the facts were there, but rolled up in a thick blanket of social media dribble, as if that actually means anything. Also that's enough "facts" for one paragraph.

The reality is that we are never going to escape the predictable, sensational nature of the media but it did bring me back to something more subtle that I have thought before often, even if not in this context.

I'm only going to touch on this as I was not involved with either of the incidents and have no place to comment, but they do illustrate my point.

The Internet has been engulfed in Harambe hysteria and whilst it is of course always heartbreaking when situations crop up where there is no other alternative but to shoot an animal for public safety (a liberty the public will no doubt never be thankful for) we need to put it into perspective and remember how many gorillas die regularly due to poaching and habitat destruction, those nameless animals whisping off into obscurity without a murmur.

Some of the comments made are gut wrenching, they are either idle, tasteless, satire of the worst order, or the people writing them are deficient in some way. I'll put forward one and let you run it by yourself.

"Gorilla on the loose, they are starting an uprising for Harambe."

This comment and many others made shows an absolute misunderstanding of animal welfare and behaviour in general. The reality is that the gorilla in question probably never breached a safe zone and was no doubt content to be back with his group once the drama was over. The idea that gorillas might have watched the news of Harambe's death on their internal ESP tv's is even more worrying. That said, the reasoning behind these sorts of statements is irrelevant because it only reflects a wider cultural attitude in society about captivity and animal welfare propagated to the benefit of animal rights fanatics, so for me the next obvious question was how do we start to fix this?

Here's the thing, this is the thing which is going to go down like a lead balloon, but to pretend it doesn't exist would be foolish.

As zoo collections, we have excellent education facilities and resources, education underpins one of the main reasons for the continued existence of zoos and given the level of social awareness on conservation issues that has risen in part due to the change in the structure and mission of zoos since the Durrell era, it stands to reason that we have a fair bit of educational clout.

Why is it though, that the public in general still remain so in the dark about animal welfare and behaviour? some otherwise benign zoo processes are carried out in such a quiet and almost clandestine nature that it almost incites suspicion and ignorance straight off the bat. Why has the understanding of real animal welfare (and I'm taking science here, not the curvature of an animals mouth equalling it's level of contentment) not been a priority in most zoos? It's an integral part of the management of animals in captivity and a subject which in this era needs a real push in many areas. Let's talk about welfare, let's talk about behaviour, stuff it, let's even get human psychology involved to give a few good human examples!

I know it's a tall order as the sciences of animal welfare are subjective and can never be 100% concrete, but it doesn't mean we should shy away from them. The other option is we leave the public to take their cues from Disney movies and animal rights activists.

It's not a dig at zoos at all, as you know I'm first in line to defend good collections, but it is a real thought, why can't we teach people (and the media) more about how animals work on the inside? It's not like we don't know how to. Maybe we are becoming victims of our own educational apathy toward this subject.

I'll leave that with you to think about, have a cracking day, may your hose never kink.


Zoo outsider.