Saturday, September 02, 2006

There's Sharks in These Tanks

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has acquired a young Great White Shark, which it hopes will be "an ambassador from the deep." Its presence is intended to inspire visitors to support conservation of wild creatures.

How do they figure that capturing a wild creature and forcing it into an artificial life behind bars is conserving it?

Two years ago, the aquarium had another Great White, which was then the world's only one in captivity. She was part of an exhibit called "Vanishing Wildlife," an ironic title since she killed two other sharks in the exhibit.

She was returned to the ocean soon after. She was in captivity a record 198 days, grew more than a foot and a half and gained 100 pounds.

The new Great White Shark was caught in Santa Monica Bay and transported to Monterey, where he was placed in a million-gallon tank. He is presently 5 feet 8 inches long and 104 pounds, and will continue growing.

The aquarium hopes that people will begin to care about a magnificent species that is under threat around the world. And increase profits, of course.

Some of the most wretched-looking creatures I have ever seen were in zoos. Animals have feelings much as we do, and grieve when they are not free. What is more, the longer they're fed by humans, the less able they become to fend for themselves if they're eventually released again. Assuming they live long enough in captivity for that to be a possibility.

It isn't right. It simply is not right. Animals do not belong in zoos and aquariums for our entertainment. Sharks belong in the ocean, elephants and apes do not belong in cages, and locking up any of these creatures is an abomination which ultimately makes us less human.

It's something to think about, isn't it?


Kevin Charnas said...

Absolutely, this is something to think about. It greatly saddens me and pisses me off. Almost 90% of the natural habitat that these animals come from is gone (not the sharks obviously - although their natural habitat is so severely polluted that they're now contracting cancer). I wish that the wealthier countries (US)would step up and reward areas where much of the wildlife still have places to roam (the Serengeti, the Brazilian rainforest, northern India, Siberia, western China) and make it more lucrative to them to keep the lands wild, rather then have western-based multi-nat'l corporations lead the exploitation. The word to also get out to Americans is where NOT to shop - thus supporting some of the culprits. It would also help if there were higher evolved minds and consciousness in gov't, especially compared to what we have.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

As a teenager, I visited a zoo in Miami that displayed a gorilla in a 10'x10' cage, where he had "lived" for 34 years. He slumped dejectedly with his back to viewers, some of whom catcalled and threw things at him. HIs heart was clearly broken, and seeing him broke mine.

Ever since then, I have been outraged by both the treatment of zoo animals and by the fact that we persist in capturing and imprisoning them at all.

Your ideas have a lot of merit. Sadly, rewarding areas such as the Serengeti is not a high priority on our government's list of preferred expenditures. It seems we'd much rather destroy life than support it.

odat said...

Makes me sad too....I can't visit zoos or even pet shops anymore...


heartinsanfrancisco said...

Pet shops and animal shelters are sad because the puppies and kittens try so hard to be chosen, and you just can't take them all. But at least they have a chance, unlike zoo animals.

Lex said...

The animals izoos are the zookeepers.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

He who has thumbs rules the world.

But kindness should be a prerequisite, too.

odat said...

Hey heart,
just for your info..i've added your link in my blog.....i enjoy it a lot....

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Odat, thank you so much. I read yours every day, too. I especially liked your ode to Fall today. It really made me miss New York, which is my home state, even though I love living in California.

Old Scrote said...

There are good zoos and bad zoos. Zoos that specialise in conservation mostly do good work. For example, the Nene or Hawaiian Goose is back in the wild only because of a captive breed-and-release programme. I have taken my grandchildren several times to San Diego zoo, which is another proactive conservation zoo.
The zoos that none of us like are the ones that [a] are only concerned with providing entertainment [b] don't know how to look after their animals [c] don't distinguish between animals that tolerate captivity and those that don't.
The strangest experience I ever had in a zoo was in Beijing, where, having an afternoon free, I went to the zoo to see the pandas. The bears were scruffy, filthy and dejected. As it was late November, the zoo was deserted, or so I thought, when I became aware of a group of locals standing next to me. They were not looking at the pandas, they were looking at me. This was at a time when foreigners, especially Westerners, were a rarity in China. I suddenly knew what it felt like to be an animal in a zoo, the object of spectators' curiosity. At least they didn't try to feed me a banana, but that's maybe because they didn't have any....
Love your blog, Heart. Keep writing!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Welcome, Mr. Scrote.

You make a good point about the good work that certain conservation-minded zoos do, but as for distinguishing between animals that tolerate captivity and those that don't, there is something in me that abhors the idea of captivity for ANY animal. And keeping them as zoo exhibits without taking care of them is criminal.

However, some zoos ARE better than others. I visited the Wild Animal Park in San Diego when I lived there, and the habitats seemed quite authentic and sizable.

I have often thought that all people should be subjected to the scrutiny of strangers at some point so they can appreciate how it feels to be "different" from the dominant culture in a society. And you, an Englishman, lived through it! But how rude that they didn't offer you a banana, or at least some peanuts.

Thank you for your visit. I've enjoyed your blog since I found it through d~, but haven't had the pleasure of meeting you on my soil before.

Anonymous said...

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heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thanks, I'll check it out.

You mention your blog, yet you comment here anonymously. Why?

I always try to read blogs of those who comment to mine.