If there is one thing that turns me off tourism quicker than anything else - it's the tourists. I have had two occasions in my sightseeing life when I was turned off in spades. One was a visit - where I made my "no more zoos, ever" pledge to myself - to the Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo where I was under the misapprehension that I would see animals on the plains as I had in Kenya. The animals might not have been behind iron railings or in cages but the swales of earth imprisoned them in a similar way - and I have never forgotten the forlorn looks of the giraffes and the uneasy pacing backwards and forwards of the snow leopard.
But what took the cake was a visit to the wolf.
One viewed the wolf from a raised platform looking down into long grass where the wolf lived. When the wolf appeared, the noise from those around me frightened the wolf back to the furthest end of his habitation in what I can only presume was terror.
This brought back another nauseous memory of when I took a trip on Yellow Waters in Kakadu. The trip was full of interest - the bird life, the vegetation including distinctive trees. I looked around my companions on the flat bottomed barge and found expressionless faces. No one, it seemed to me, was as impressed as I at what was surrounding us - until..... until we came upon a crocodile basking on a mudbank in the sun. Then, those around me sprang to life.
Now, I do know that wolves and crocodiles in the wild can take people's lives so I suppose I should force myself to acknowledge the scare factor - as one would for the titillating pleasure of a scary movie. Coming close to something scary and remaining safe might be more inclined to induce a perverse pleasure than noting the Burdekin Plum or the birdlife.
Please, if you feel you must go to a zoo to see imprisoned wildlife, can you
- make the visit worthwhile by learning all you can about the animals you see.
- can you think of the animals you are visiting more than yourself
- can you set a good example for the children around you so that their behaviour might improve
- can you suggest to the zoo you are visiting that they establish, as a condition of entry, a twenty minute class for visitors which would encompass an overview of the animals, noting the really shy ones and advising/warning visitors of the most appropriate behaviour around the animals.
You can also put these thoughts into action right away by going to this website and taking action to stop commercial crocodile deaths in the Northern Territory.