We went to the zoo the other day! I hadn’t been in ages, and it was more fun than I remembered. But I did have a different perspective about it as an adult than I did when I was a little kid. When I looked at these animals it was obvious that they didn’t belong there.
They weren’t in their natural environment; their enclosures, however painstakingly crafted, paled in comparison to the big wild world that should be their home.
Modern humans are a little like that: we’ve removed ourselves from the natural environment and built ourselves a fake one.
Historically, many zookeepers didn’t treat their animals very well. They were kept in bare, too-small cages, where they were forced too close to curious onlookers and weren’t given toys to play with. Those animals were sad, stressed out, and unhealthy. They were living in an environment that was nothing like the one they were meant for, and their bodies and minds weren’t receiving the right stimuli to thrive.
I think some people are putting themselves in an old-timey zoo like that – staying indoors all the time, isolating themselves from other people, eating science experiments instead of food, remaining sedentary, and not allowing themselves to play. Is it any wonder that this lifestyle is associated with stress and ill health?
But hey, if you look at the animals in a well-managed zoo like the one we visited, they’re fairly healthy. They’re also pretty happy!
Their enclosures are big enough for them to run, jump, climb and/or swim:
They’re kept in an appropriately sized social group:
They’re fed things that are at least similar to what they would eat in the wild:
And they’re given toys to play with and things to climb on, to exercise their minds and bodies:
The zookeepers put a lot of effort into mimicking their natural environment and level of stimuli as closely as possible, because that is what keeps animals healthy.
Would zoo animals be happier and healthier in the wild? Sure. But many of them have injuries or illnesses that make it impossible for them to be released, like the zoo’s bald eagle:
They can’t go back to their natural environment… and neither can we. It’s just not practical, and there are many, many things about the modern world that are wonderful (like the Internet)! Luckily, humans are very adaptable creatures that can thrive in many environments. But our flexibility does have limits.
The fact is, we are our own zookeepers in this modern-day world, and we’re responsible for designing our own enclosures. I should enlarge mine, to give myself more room to run around. Maybe you should improve the food you eat, or give yourself some toys to play with, or expand your herd.
How could you improve your inner zoo animal’s habitat?