Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tiger Bait

Bizarro is a subsidiary of Human Endeavors Amalgamated. Please enjoy responsibly.

This cartoon is an example of one of those rare occasions when I didn't feel I needed to exaggerate reality.

Not long ago, some idiots were taunting a tiger at a zoo and the clever cat jumped out and attacked them. What strikes me as sad about a story like this is that innocent animals are kept in prisons so jackasses can gawk at and taunt them. Like when Roy was eaten by a tiger in his magic show in Las Vegas a few years back, I always root for the unwilling participant in these episodes.

The tiger in the zoo story was, of course, shot and killed, which is the usual sentence for any animal that finally cracks under human pressure.

It isn't hard to imagine that, given the chance, the mangled nitwits from the zoo episode would return to the enclosure to taunt the cat again. If humans weren't so damned good at avoiding natural selection, we wouldn't have so many of these types around. Most would be eaten by tigers before given the chance to reproduce.


marine_explorer said...

Well, possibly those guys were idiots, however one could argue whether a taunting should break the threshold of safety for any zoo visitor. Mind you, I'm conceptually against zoo enclosures, and consider them essentially animal prisons where normal animal behavioral cycles are hindered and stunted—and provide a poor environment for people to appreciate animals and their instinctual behavior. You may keep an animal "living" outside its habitat, but I think in some sense it's only an animated museum specimen. As you won't see normal animal behavior, it's hardly the proper setting for human-animal interaction—whether intentional or accidental.

Obviously, the zoo concept is seriously flawed on many levels, but while they exist they should provide an acceptable margin of safety for visitor and animal alike. I have worked with large and potentially dangerous marine mammals at a hospital near the zoo in question, so I'll offer this opinion on animal safety: You cannot establish a "safe" animal enclosure that hinges on a particular stimulus level. If an animal can escape an enclosure simply due to stimuli, the keepers are putting the animal at risk--and are ultimately responsible. By their inherent flaws, zoos remove the animal from their natural setting, and therefore create an illusory backdrop of normalcy against which unpredictable animal behavior will emerge. Since it is therefore impossible to assign direct causality between visitor behavior and animal stimulus/response, care should be taken to prevent any possibility of interaction. It's my opinion this particular zoo failed both the animals and the visitors on these points.

Granted, this is a rather lengthy and serious response for a cartoon, but you think about these things when you work with 250 kg seal lions who could flatten you without warning! And yes—let's hope zoos are soon made obsolete by better preservation of natural habitats.

-Kurt S.

p.s: opinions are my own, and do not reflect policy of any zoo or animal hospital.

Karl said...

After seeing the cartoon and reading the above comment, I realize now, I shouldn't keep an exotic pet in captivity. I understand it's important to do the right thing and release my special goldfish; "Goldylocks" back into nature. He or she always seemed so happy (I could tell by the smile on his or her face):(

Clara the Lady Wolf said...

Yes! Thanks for putting this thought into words. I think humans are the only creatures that are flawed in this (no effective natural selection process)way. Maybe that's what's responsible for many of the world's problems.