Watching the hundreds of Facebook posts describing desperate situations for ape habitats and horrid captive conditions can be almost overwhelming at times. And my laments in this blog don’t usually prompt a smile, either. In the midst of all of our earnest efforts to improve the lives of our ape cousins, it may help to remember where we were 50 years ago, and realize how far we’ve come.
This is Jiggs, a wild-born orangutan that Detroit Zoo bought from a trader in 1955. Note the sterile white tiles and concrete. This was his 24-hour “home” in the zoo! Back then, zoos didn’t give their apes outdoor exhibit space. The apes never touched dirt.
Today, accredited zoos give their apes room outdoors to climb, swing, relax, bask in the sun, and even get away from the visitors if they want. Sure, we’d love for them (the apes, not the visitors) to be free in the wild, but that would be like plopping me down in the middle of Borneo or Uganda. Not a happy sight.
So, this summer, visit the apes at your favorite zoo. And ask the docent if there’s anything you can do to help enrich the lives of the orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, or bonobos you see there. Getting to know your local characters, and helping where you can, is sure to bring a smile to your face and theirs.
|Now, chimpanzees at Detroit Zoo's Harambee exhibit can enjoy summer breezes.|