It’s All Happening At The Zoo

Earlier this week, I did a post about how we are attempting to combat stupidity by getting rid of Buckyballs. That post came to mind while I was eating lunch, when I saw an article about some historical photos of the San Francisco Zoo. We’ve been hearing a lot about zoos of late, usually in conjunction with “teh stupid”. There was the child who fell into a painted dog enclosure and was mauled, after his mother stood him on the railing. There is the man who attempted suicide by walking into a tiger enclosure at the Bronx Zoo. I’m sure you can think of other incidents.

I don’t want to discuss the issue of whether zoos are good or bad. Rather, I’m more interested in looking at what zoos were versus what they are today.

Take a look again at the pictures from the San Francisco Zoo. We have interactions with animals you would never have today, such as children feeding large wild animals. It isn’t just San Francisco either. It is easy to explore the old Los Angeles Zoo, and to see how close one could get to the animals and the risk from the exposure. The St. Louis Zoo had children interacting with elephants. I’m sure you remember visiting the zoo as a child, and the things you could do that you cannot do today.

This all goes back to the original issue of risk. Back when I was growing up (whippersnapper!), there was so much less concern about risk to children. Adventure was part of growing up. Although I’m sure that incidents happened, they certainly didn’t get the instant coverage and hoopla they get today, and thus they were less in the overall societal consciousness. In short: We didn’t worry (or we were too busy worrying about “the bomb” to worry about our children).

Today? It seems that worry has turned into big business. We worry so much we pay legislatures to create rules to protect ourselves from ourselves (Measure B, the condom measure, is a great example of that). We remove products from markets; we close attractions. We monitor our children 24/7, and keep them tethered to us with cellphones. Has the risk changed, or are we just more aware of it?

To look at the other side: Is this a bad thing? Our children are certainly safer. Isn’t it better to know the risk and to act on it than to live in ignorance?


P.S.: There is a great quote in that Measure B article I linked: “Sure, Pas is pretty close to the Valley, but we think porn should look to Vernon–it’s sparsely populated, full of warehouses, and already smells like sausage. “


One Reply to “It’s All Happening At The Zoo”

  1. When I was in Australia in 2003, I spent an afternoon at a zoo. Some exhibits were VERY different from U.S. zoos. In the kangaroo enclosure, there was a gate with a sign that said something like “Come in and feed the kangaroos!” It totally confused me, because going in would put me right there with the kangaroos, and all I could think was, “They seriously allow this?!” I was wary, and certain I was misunderstanding something, so held back for a couple minutes (feigning interest in a nearby tree or something) until someone else came along. A family came along and went in and no one yelled at them, so I went in after them. There are no zoo personnel or anything guarding either the roos or the people; you just walk in and hang out with the roos. (The roos were kind of sleepy and ignoring us.) An employee walked past while I was in there and said hello, but he was just passing through to another exhibit. I kept expecting to be yelled at (“What are you doing in there?!), but it was not to be.

    In another area, there were some little monkeys in a cage (I don’t remember what kind of monkeys; they were really cute). In the U.S., of course, there would be a fence farther away so little people (and bigger people who you would think would know better) couldn’t just stick their fingers in the cage. But not at this zoo. You could stand right next to it and stick your fingers in.

    I had two conclusion: 1) Australians must be less litigious. 2) Australians must expect people take responsibility for their own behavior, and I kind of love them for that. No idea if either conclusion is correct, but I enjoyed the free feeling being trusted to not be a moron.

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