Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The SeaWorld Debate

I've been thinking about animals in captivity lately, and yeah, you can blame it on Blackfish.  I didn't actually see the documentary until about a month ago, but I did watch the trailer when it was released last July.  It was enough to make me stop and think.

And here's what:  I can't decide who's telling the truth.  (Isn't that how it often is?)  It's likely there are truths on both sides, but even if that's the case, I have to make a decision.  Do I continue to visit SeaWorld, zoos, and other places where animals live in captivity?*  It might not seem like a big deal now, but one day, I might have kids and they might want to go to the zoo.  Even now, I live in a city with a SeaWorld, and that's one of the first places visitors want to go.  (I've been twice now.)

The biggest benefit I see with zoos and aquariums is that they excite the mind of a child, and seeing God's creations up close stirs the soul and fills the mind with wonder.  There's no denying that.  But is it enough to justify animals in captivity?

Perhaps that's not the right question.  Maybe the question is, "How can we create better habitats for captivity?"  Or "Should this particular animal be captive?"  I obviously don't know the answer to that (and desperately want to have a long chat with a marine biologist), but here's some food for thought:  Jeremy saw killer whales in the wild, just off the Alaskan coast.  He's told me about it twice now, and each time, he practically gushes.  (Jeremy doesn't gush.)  He's even spent about ten minutes showing me picture after picture of the whales he saw.  (Jeremy doesn't talk about things that don't mean much to him.)

What's my point?  It's that maybe wild animals are meant to be seen in the wild.  Sure, it may be expensive, and that may mean most of us will never see some of God's creations up close.  But maybe that's okay?  Maybe that's why National Geographic exists -- to let explorers visit animals in their natural environments and then tell us about it.

I don't know.  I just don't know.  I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this, though, especially if you're a marine biologist or zoologist.  Please, leave comments!  (And if you are a biologist or zoologist, leave your contact information!)

*I'm conflicted about zoos recently because I question the captivity of elephants, my favorite animal on earth.  Recent studies have shown that elephants in captivity develop physical and mental disorders, and because they are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet, it's really quite depressing to think about.  (Source: The Science is In: Elephants Are Even Smarter Than We Realized.)

Thing I'm thankful for: walks with dad


Anonymous Blake said...

A real shame, this SeaWorld business. I saw Shamu in captivity in 2006 (the san diego "believe" show) and was awestruck. I'd never witnessed a more powerful "dog" trick if you will. A few years later, after much of the recent violence had already taken place, I was sorely let down by updated show in San Antonio. That said, I don't think the odds of trainer injury or death (something like 1 in over a thousand by my unofficial number crunching after seeing Blackfish) warrant a ban on captive whales, but I'm with you that seeing animals in the wild is the ideal environment moving forward. Except for maybe bengals tigers at the zoo. I could watch and listen to their deep bass purrs all afternoon (and have).

1:49 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I am in agreement too. Ever since I was a teenager I have been a big supporter of conservation but didn't think too much about animal captivity. It wasn't until my neighbor got a monkey that I really dedicated any thought to it. It just seemed so ridiculous that a person could "own" and control a monkey in the middle of Idaho. If you think about it, in many ways our dogs and cats have more freedom than other captive animals. After reading a lot of works by Muir and a book called, "The Tree," I started to realize that, in general, having a relationship and appreciating the natural world doesn't mean controlling it just so everyone can get a fake/pretend glimpse of it. It is really the daily interactions with nature that influence and touch us. For me, going to a zoo isn't the same as sitting it the sun reading or hiking a small mountain or even planting my own flowers. I like zoos but they make me a little sad...it would be better for us to embrace the wonders around us on a more daily basis rather than paying a bunch of money to "experience" nature once a year...but that is just my opinion ...

10:18 PM  

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