Gorilla: A Day at the Zoo

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in Unmowed Blog, wildlife | 0 comments

I ran into this guy on a trip to the Bronx Zoo.

Now zoos have their detractors, and there are admittedly lot of bad things about zoos. But I have to say, I love zoos passionately. I mean a good, reputable, not-for-profit zoo, where the animals’ welfare is considered and the focus is conservation as well as entertainment. But a zoo is entertainment, of course. It has to be.

Because conservation education is all about entertainment. That’s how we learn best. Kids, adults, makes no difference. We learn about things that we like, things that intrigue us, things that are just plain fun. In fact, we’re really good at it–if we care about something, our brains are capable of amazing feats. Kids who can barely read and can’t add 2 and 2 are able to recite dozens of Pokémon characters with five-syllable names from memory. I cringe to think how many of my brain cells are occupied in remembering the names and relationships of every single character on Game of Thrones...

So a zoo is where we have fun, and that’s why we go there. Rare is the kid who pleads for a trip to the zoo in order to learn about deforestation in the Congo. They don’t want to learn any boring stuff, that’s what school is for. On a day off, they just want to see gorillas! But without realizing it, the lessons sneak into the mind via the heart.

A zoo is where kids (and not just kids) learn to love animals and care about nature. You can’t love something unless you experience it.

There was a class of high school students visiting the zoo–an age group that’s usually professionally bored and unshakably listless. They shuffled unmoved past the well-designed exhibits on habitat destruction and climate change. But their reaction when they spotted the gorilla was worthy of a sighting of a dozen red-carpet stars. When the gorilla casually scratched his butt and then put his finger in his mouth, the screams of delighted horror were deafening.

The kids were entertained, all right. But now they have a reason to care about all that boring stuff, the deforestation and so forth. They learned a lesson of far more power than any virtual experience.

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