At a local Six Flags, Discovery Kingdom (previously Marine World), a 2 year old giraffe died last night! There was a fire in the giraffe barn and one of the giraffes didn't have access to the outside pen and was trapped. They say he was overcome by smoke.
This brings up something in me that I have struggled with much of my life. I used to LOVE animal parks and zoos. I had the dream to be a whale/dolphin trainer. I researched the career, I figured out what school I wanted to go to, and where I wanted to intern at, and also wanted to get my Marine Biology degree to increase my knowledge. I started volunteering 2 nights a week at the Marine Mammal Center mainly working with Elephant Seals, CA Sea Lions, and Harbor Seals. That was when I was seriously considering becoming an Animal Health Technician (Vet Assistant) with a specialty in large animals. At the center I worked with the Vet from Marine World and was given the opportunity to intern there, so get more large animal experience. And this was about when I was stricken by my distaste for keeping animals captive for the main purpose of entertaining people.
Oh sure, there is always the point of education, and studying the animals, and I truly do believe that some of these parks are half-heartedly living up to that, but I am sure not all of them are. I don't know, maybe I was too effected by Free Willy, but every time I do go to one of these animal parks, I inevitably will cry at some point during my visit. Partly for the animals and partly for me not following my dreams.
So yes, I still go to these parks, but in the last few years I have only gone when my radio station is hosting a special listeners day, so I don't actually pay to get in. I do pay for food though, and I realize I am totally being hypocritical, so this is why I'm torn. I enjoy these parks, but I don't know if they are really a good thing.
The local park we have here is especially bad though. Originally, Marine World Africa USA (as it was named before it moved), was a rather large animal park with mainly only animals. There were some small kiddie rides, and games but that was it. It really did seem to be more about the animals. But then the park lost their lease on the land and moved to a smaller location, they lost the Africa USA part of the name, but still had some of the non-marine animals. The new park wasn't nearly as grand, and within a few years it started struggling. And then Six Flags came in to save the day. They expanded the park into the parking lot to add huge roller coasters, and started adding in rides in any little area they could find. The animals started showing stress, and getting sick, and the energy of the park completely changed. The giraffe area always particularly upset me, because it was really small and pretty bare.
I still really struggle with how I feel about zoos and animal parks. Perhaps I need to go back to volunteering to ease some of my guilt.