The Next Generation

The baboons were making noises again, on that soft summer day.

As I swam and dove in the sea, listening to the baboons, there was a familiar mixture of animal scents in the ever-present breeze. It was a typical day for me that summer. I was 11 and my brother was 7. We were playing frisbee in the sea, just the two of us, on the little island leading to the zoo. The zoo animals were on the shore opposite us – we could even see some of the buildings. And we’d imagine the rest.

We used to go to the zoo often, because back in those days, it cost next to nothing for children under 12. We’d basically just walk in.

We also went to that little beach a lot, equipped with suntan lotion and towels, and not much else.

On the island before the zoo, we’d see a peacock strut its stuff, although my mother didn’t seem to believe us when we told her. We also saw pheasants there regularly.

There was a little forest path on the way to the beach, which took a downward plunge right before its end. The path was uneven with roots, and armies of ants paraded it, up and down. I loved riding that path with my white-and-pink bike, as quickly as I could go.

Almost thirty years later, the zoo still exists. But the baboons are long gone. Replaced by a species better suited for the cold.

The beach has changed, it’s not deserted anymore and ugly changing rooms have been built. Harmful blue-green algae make an occasional appearance at many of the town’s beaches, lessening my urge to dip in. A large bridge has been built, too, making the island a feasible place to visit for a picnic or a jog. There is even an adventure park.

I didn’t look for the ant path – I have changed, too. My bike is now white-and-green.

As our almost-toddlers visited a zoo for the first time, my brother accompanying us, I couldn’t help thinking that I could find no ethical reason to keep animals in cages to be ogled. Unless they were going extinct and the zoo was part of the effort to keep the species alive.

But then, seeing dozens of other families and children swirling about, I came up with another reason.

Maybe the next generation will learn better to love and appreciate their world, along with its fauna and flora, if they get the opportunity to experience them firsthand.

To fall in love with horses and chickens, to feel the thrill of hugging a tree and listening to the wind move its branches. To dive into water while talking about an encounter with a peacock, and giggling away.

***

(The zoo I’m referring to is the Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki, Finland)

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29 responses to “The Next Generation

  1. Oh! I thought at first you were describing something in Australia. Sounds so exotic! Too bad to hear of the algae. In the past I went to the ZOO gladly, in Ljubljana, Vienna, Paris. The last one I saw was Monkey World in the UK. But now only seeing images from a ZOO can break my heart and I have no wish to go again. If preservation is the goal, it’s different but I still don’t wish to see them anywhere but in the wild.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When I was 10-11, having just moved here, I actually thought peacocks belonged in Finnish nature because we kept seeing them 😊 Didn’t know they were runaways from the zoo! I guess it was a bit exotic but I thought it was normal! I have mixed feelings about zoos. I am allergic, too, so before I met hubby I didn’t really visit any on my trips. I know what you mean about being broken-hearted. We saw orangutans (or gorillas? not sure anymore) at Zurich and they looked so sad. Imprisoned. It felt distasteful to stand there watching.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I too have mixed feelings about zoos. The small zoo here in Hilo has a pair of Bengal tigers in a nice open enclosure and it’s very cool to go see them. A few of the other animals though are in cages and seeing them is a bit depressing. One mitigating fact is that the tigers were bred in captivity and I think most, if not all of the others exhibits were either captive bred or rescue animals from private individuals or those injured in the wild.
    Also, echoing your point, the Hilo zoo is free to the public and very popular with local families. Kids have a good time there. Some will go on to forget about it, but I think for others it sparks an interest in animals and maybe a desire to learn more about them and their situation. I hope that’s the case anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, these are all mitigating facts, and also some zoos probably use part of the entrance fees for animal rescue work (as well as covering the zoo’s expenses of course.) I think it’s the same with travel. We all know traveling (whether it’s by plane, car, ship…) is bad for your carbon footprint, yet we choose to ignore that little fact and happily travel away. I hope most of us return from our travels with experiences that influence our daily actions in a positive way – with more tolerance for our fellow citizens and foreign cultures, curiosity and love for the natural world.

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  3. It sounds like you had an idyllic childhood ~ I can imagine swimming with the sounds of the wild on the other side. Growing up in a small town (or a city that caters to nature and natural habitat) is something special. This post goes to show how important it is for us as people to keep such magic alive for our children. Cheers to a good week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: This or That Tag – VJ's Fotoplore·

  5. Such a lovely and thoughtful post!
    As a kid, I always loved the zoo. I didn’t know what they went through or were going through. As I got bigger, my love changed to sadness because I couldn’t watch them in that tiny space. Their pain and frustration is clearly evident from their behaviour and eyes. Personally, I just wish that it’s the zoo that becomes extinct and the wildlife remain where they are supposed to be – in their natural habitat, free!

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  6. I didn’t realize until I read the part about new animals adapting better to the cold that you were talking about Finland 🙂 Your childhood summer days sound idyllic. I wish I had beach/sea in my childhood hehe.
    I have mixed feelings about zoos too – it’s great to learn about animals and be familiar with them but at the same time, it’s so sad to watch them caged. I think wildlife reserves and national parks might be better alternatives when it comes to conservation..

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems summers were warmer here back then, and the sea wasn’t polluted. I haven’t gone swimming in the sea in Helsinki as an adult, it’s too cold and there’s the algae problem. Uhh 😕
      Over here, I sometimes read in the news that police officers shot a wild animal, like a deer for example, becaude it wandered into town. One deer was photographed standing on a low roof in Helsinki, obviously scared and lost. I don’t understand why they have to shoot the poor defenseless animal! Why can’t someone transport it further back into the woods again, tranquilized if necessary. Or in this case, give the animal to the zoo. But no, they just shoot them dead. So sad!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Remembering the orangutans in small cages at the Zurich zoo made you write this post?? Hehehe. I have the same ambivalent thoughts about zoos….. I don’t like to see animals in cages or without space to run or to behave like they do in nature. But at the same time, maybe they are the only places where some species will survive (like Polar bears in a few years….???) and future generations will know them… who knows!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess I’ve been thinking about zoos lately!! Heheh! 😄 I think we are also so used to the idea of a zoo, because we’ve been there since kids, that we don’t want to see it as imprisonment. Then again, does it differ that much from having pets?

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