Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Trip to the San Francisco Zoo -- If Only I Could Talk to the Animals

Gloomy day. Was always on the cool misty side out there. It's been at least forty years since I last visited the zoo of my childhood. So much bigger now. Some of it so beautiful, in places where the animals are barely visible or vacant it looks more botanical than zoological.

Here is my favorite photo, because of the lioness on the right, who is so handsome, proud and wise looking. Around her I would love to place my arm, hoping that we could be friends and converse on the subject of the circus.

"My royal friend," I might say, "I was born under your sign, so I am hoping you will trust me. You seem to enjoy being seen by the people. You must know how admired you are. Is that so? Do you by chance have a fantasy of jumping daringly through a hoop of fire and being cheered by the multitudes?"

The other lion looks worn out and used up from cosmetics, like a jaded Vegas performer.

In the space where Tatiana once lived, this tiger looked maybe a tad bored, like a pampered kept dame half-sleeping the day away. When I see animals like this I think favorably of the circus, for under the big top I see animals closer together and have the impression they must be happier because they have company.

Crowds gaze at the compound (it looked much smaller closeup than I had anticipated) from which Tatiana sprang last Christmas, killing one boy and injuring two others. What seemed incredible is that the deep moat remains devoid of water; outside zoo experts had said it would likely have made it impossible for Tatiana to have brought off such an escape. And yet, a new higher wall includes prison-like wiring at the top -- not a pretty picture. I prefer water.

I felt desolately sad for this creature, it looked is so alone and lost in there. Is that what it really wants? Wouldn't it be happier with others of its kind? Even all those stones have a cold stark barren look -- I'd prefer sawdust and canvas.

This flamboyant bird reminded me of a costumed Disneyland performer commuting from one gig to another.

What majestic creatures! So stately as they ambled freely within their spacious compound. So confident and cool. If I could talk to them, I would ask them, "Would you enjoy being seen in a great circus parade, striding regally around the hippodrome track, bringing smiles to the faces of happy children?"

Sorry to say, I have little desire to return to this zoo. In truth, I've not been to any other zoos either. However, it did make me want to check out other zoos for comparisons. Maybe it's the cold weather. Maybe it's the lonely animals, so many of them alone in their pens. Or maybe it's the way I've seen animals displayed in circuses, giving me the impression that they belong together and not apart.


Anonymous said...


From hearing your comments after attending the San Francisco zoo, I feel like, yes indeed from what you say, these animals would be happier if performing in a circus, parading around as the beautiful, majestic animals they are, in front of an appreciative audience, rather than living the lonely, isolated lives they do. The circus people would treat them with love and respect, WHICH IS WHAT THEY DESERVE.

Kathy :)

Anonymous said...


I would love to put my arm around him hoping that we could be friends and he would let me ask him about his thoughts on the.....

it is not a HIM... it is a
Her.....a Female....on your right...
Happy New Year.....

Showbiz David said...

Ha! I wondered about that. The lion on the left somehow, in image, looks more feminine, enhancing gender illuisons, I guess. It's all in the eye of the beholder. "She" might even be easier to talk to. And (?) easier to pet??? Oh, the humorous implications of all this. I better stop.

Mireille. said...

Yes ...... in deed, the Lion is so good looking,could easy pass for a female....But
in the Animal Kingdome ..always the Male ...is the best looking.
sincerely Mireille.

Showbiz David said...

So what about the one on the left that I dissed? A flamboyant "he" or a bleached out "she"???

Mireille. said...

He is a very good looking Male Lion....
he dont need any bleach.
the sun...does the job...

Showbiz David said...

Thank you, professor Mireille. I must enroll in zoo 1A. (I am still trying to pass human 1A) It is all coming back, a fuzzy memory about some male animals bearing more plumage, hair, etc.

Wade G. Burck said...

Show Biz,
I for once an speechless. Hand to go God, if I hadn't known better, I would have assumed I was reading a Peta or some other animal rights group's yearly report on zoos. None of my business, but it you tour the zoo by yourself.
Wade Burck

mireille said...

Wade mon cherie;
Happy New Year.
glad that i got here first,
if not ...Poor David....LOL....

Casey McCoy Cainan said...

Mr. Showbiz,
Is that truly how you felt for the animals while you were there? Writing that they looked like they would have rather enjoyed being in the circus more then being alone in the zoo as PR for the "soft target" circus biz is one thing, but I get the feeling you were honestly empathizing with the animals using your human emotions. This my friend is dangerous ground, and also the exact same ammunition used by the AR radicals. I feel it is very arrogant on a humans part to try to give human desires and emotion to animals. This is not meant as an attack on you or your beliefs, just pointing out that sometimes being with it and for it can cause as much damage as the AR movement. We have opened the door for people to come to the circus and add their "human" emotions to our animal equation, by advertising "they are like our family" and "we love them like our children". How many people do you know who tie their children to a truck, or put them in a cage? None I hope, but by saying things like this we give the perception that doing these things would be bad because we would never treat our children like that. It is not just "what" people think, we must also address "why" they think what they do.

Showbiz David said...

Casey, thanks for your input. I am not a flack for the circus or anti circus animal acts. To the contrary, the title of my piece "If I could only talk to" was meant to convey its fanciful aspect. I actually went away thinking more highly of animmals in the circus, for the reasons stated. You imply the animals do not enjoy circus work. I imagined them through conditioning or other phenomena coming to enjoy the external positive vibes from a crowd. John Pugh and Tommy Henneford both strongly impied to me that animals enjoying circus work. Was that total hype? Yes, yo are very correct: it may be foolish for humans to read into animal actions "emotions," as most experts would agree. Not all however. Some dog owners believe they can practically talk to their animals, at least sense basic emotions. That's up for debate. Read my next post, where in the scientific community there is an emerging argument for animals actually having emotions. Now, as for what PETA wishes to do with my writings is something else, but I do not write about circus out of obligation to the circus industry. In the long run, the public going and seeing what it sees will decide. And this modest blog will have little effect. As for your equating an animal in a cage with a child in a cage, that's your equation, not mine. It is all a very complex and fascinating issue.

Wade G. Burck said...

Show Biz,
In regards to you question about John Pugh and Tom Hannafords statements, yes, total hype. The longer you live, really live David, in an animals life the less complex it gets, and the more understandable less speculative.
To back up you claim of not being biased to circus animals, ask them what they would think of living in a zoo, and giving up the fame and riches of show biz. Let me know what they say.
Wade Burck

Anonymous said...

David, are you aware that for some species, at least, the enthusiasm for performing is generated by the relief at release from close confinement? This is the reason why pet dogs do not make for good hyper, tail wagging circus performers and the reason why chimps are kept in small cages without contact of other chimps. I can't speak for cat animals, because I have a hard time believing that any of Beatty's dozens of seat warmer cats found much opportunity for excitement or even leg stretching, for that matter, in being chased onto a pedestal to sit for 20 minutes until being chased back into it's 3x6 "habitat" again.
This is also why gaited show horses are kept in semi dark stalls 24/7. The relief from boredom, along with the sudden exposure to normal light creates the illusion of being an enthusiastic worker. That, and many other little hidden tricks, which I won't go into here.
Many zoo animals do strike me as being pretty bored and empty replicas of their wild counterparts, but modern zoos seem to be doing what they can to provide the best in enriching the lives of the inhabitants, given their circumstances.