Letter to the Editor re “Oregon Zoo Tiger…Dies”

Letter to the Editor re:Oregon Zoo Tiger, 15, Suffers Apparent Seizures, Dies
Submitted: March 26, 2014
News outlet: The Register-Guard

The Oregon Zoo recently announced that 15 year old tiger Nicole has died.  According to the Zoo’s announcement, Nicole was born at the John Ball Zoological Garden in Michigan in 1998 and was transferred to the Oregon Zoo in 2000 where she remained until her death.  Her brother Mikhail remains on exhibit at the Zoo.

Nicole was thus a captive her entire life and never knew that being a tiger does not necessarily mean existing merely to amuse and be gawked at by humans or that tiger habitat generally does not include coffee stands and gift shops.  She likely did not know that her experience as a tiger was incredibly unique even if she knew all too well that it was painfully, perhaps mind-numbingly, shallow.

In the death announcement Oregon Zoo officials praised her for her docile nature as she was reportedly quite compliant for procedures such as blood draws and dental work.  By a captor’s logic, docility is the highest of virtues and yet there was no possibility of her ever being released for “good behavior”.  Her zoo experience rendered her dysfunctional and dependent, unable to live a normal tiger life in the wild, unable to live free of those who confined her.

She was born into captivity and she died in captivity.  It is the least glamorous and most depressing of tragedies.

Letter to the Editor re: Wildlife Safari

In addition to regular posts of the sort that have appeared thus far, I will occasionally be posting the text of relevant letters to the editor that I submit to newspapers and other publications.  I currently aim for two posts per month; any letters that appear will be in addition to those two posts.  The idea is that even if such letters are not published by the news outlet to which they are submitted they will still be available here.

Letter to the Editor re: Wildlife Safari
Submitted: February 11, 2013
News outlet: The News-Review (Roseburg, OR)

In a little over a year, two giraffes—Kipandi and Hodari—have died at Wildlife Safari. Kipandi was six years old and Hodari was fifteen.

It is my hope that these deaths cause people to pause and reevaluate Wildlife Safari. Over 500 animals are contained in the 600 acre park yet the Wildlife Safari website boasts that the animals are “in their natural habitat freely roaming much as they do in the wild”. But the fact is that this is essentially an animal themed amusement park.

The presence of a petting zoo, camel rides, a so-called elephant car wash, and a lion tug-of-war (with a lion on one end of the rope and park-goers on the other) makes clear that Wildlife Safari is first and foremost about amusing park-goers and treating animals like entertaining exhibits. If further evidence is needed, the “Uganda Railway” train running through the Village area should suffice.

The cheetah breeding program—which the park is often praised for—serves largely to fill cages and exhibits at other zoos. Wildlife Safari’s website says that “[cheetah] cubs born at the park have populated zoos across the U.S.”. Yet many people respect Wildlife Safari precisely because it is perceived as being somehow different than a zoo; failing to realize that Wildlife Safari is the breeding ground for other facilities that they rightfully condemn.

In short, animals do not belong in captivity. And they do not exist for our amusement.

Correction:  The original text of this letter stated that Hodari and Kipandi died within a month.  In fact, Kipandi died in January 2012 and Hodari in February 2013.  The above text has been corrected to reflect this.

Update: This letter was published by The News-Review on February 21, 2013.