“What’s a zoo?” asks Ruby.
“A zoo, Ruby, is a place where humans make amends. A good zoo is a place where humans care for animals and keep them safe.”
“Did the baby elephant get to the zoo?” Ruby asks softly.
I don’t answer right away. “Yes,” I say at last.
“How did she get there?” Ruby asks.
“She had a friend,” I say. “A friend who made a promise.”
by Katherine Applegate
illustrations by Patricia Castelao
I like my rose-colored glasses. They help me see just what I want to see, but not always what is really in front of me. The One and Only Ivan is the story of a Silverback Western Lowland Gorilla. He was captured when he was a baby and bought by a guy who raised him like a baby and child until he got too big for all that. Then he took Ivan to a shopping mall with a circus theme. Ivan lived in a small “domain” and performed in three shows every day, 365 days a year. This part is a true story. The rest of the book is fiction, but we get to understand a little bit, of Ivan’s point of view.
He knows zoos protect animals. He knows they are better places than his small “domain” in a shopping mall. His fictional goal is to get Ruby, a baby elephant and new member of the circus/mall, into the zoo.
The real Ivan was donated to Zoo Atlanta in 1994 by the shopping mall owner. Ivan was much revered at the zoo by keepers and visitors alike. He passed away in August, 2012, when he was 50 years old. You can see his obituary here. http://www.zooatlanta.org/home/article_content/zoo_mourns_ivan
My feelings are still very mixed about what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo. The mother was not wrong. The zookeeper was not wrong. An ocean difference separates “not wrong” from “right.” The little boy was acting like a little boy. Harambe was acting like a 400 pound gorilla. And nothing is “not wrong” with this tragic picture. But, I’m not sure any part of it is “right” either.
I will continue to visit zoos. My connection with animals is fostered by being able to see exotic, endangered, even dangerous animals. And imagine interacting with them, respecting them, encouraging their ability to continue their earthly existence.
I know there is a difference between being optimistic and being foolish. Realistic, too. That has always been hardest of all for me to see. So what do we do with Harambe and this little boy? I'm still thinking.
I never intended this to be a place for politics and my emotions are too raw to see past my anger and sadness. So for now, I'm sending prayers of recovery to the victims still alive and prayers for peace for those who were murdered. Prayers of hope for the future go to the families and our country, wisdom and courage to our political and civil leaders.
Thanks for listening.