For those of you who haven’t yet heard the news, the beloved Knut of the Berlin Zoo died earlier this week. He was only four, which in the polar bear world, is not even a quarter of his life, nor is it (as I understand it) fully mature. Of course, his life expectancy as a cub rejected by his mother was not even to his first birthday, so in a sense, it’s awesome he lived this long. But to die so young and so suddenly, with no explanation (yet, other than possible brain abnormalities), it has bummed out a lot of people, including me.
Polar bears have been among my favourite animals since I was a child. As a result, I am full of generally useless facts about them.
As a vegan, I’m not certain how I feel about zoos. Obviously, the definition of veganism that I adhere to (which is namely about taking from or profiting off of sentient beings) kind of looks down upon them. But there are pros and cons to the argument.
I think about the case of Tatiana the tiger and don’t feel terribly sad about the perpetrators who were hurt in the incident. It wasn’t a case of a “big mean ferocious tiger attack” but rather a handful of dumbass kids who weren’t thinking. Not to say that they deserved it, but they kind of did. Of course, this isn’t because I value animal lives over human lives, but there is a limit, and someone provoking a wild animal in captivity (who is – let’s face it – probably totally not happy overall) should be prepared to deal with the consequences. Natural selection at its best.
But animals in captivity maybe aren’t always a bad thing. There are places (like Cal Academy) that I feel are perhaps doing more good than harm, particularly when it comes to learning about the scientific side of things and working toward conservation and preservation.
In June of 2010 I had the opportunity to visit the Berlin Zoo. And I don’t know how to describe it, but the animals there seemed happy. Sure, I could just be anthropomorphizing, but if that’s the case, it’s not just me doing so. Others who have been there say the same. And on this visit, I was lucky enough to see Knut, who was hanging out on a rock and enjoying the sun with his polar bear buddy (and sometimes antagonizer).
Möge er in Frieden ruhen…