Monday, December 14, 2009

Riyadh Zoo vs. Wrist Slitting

Which one wins for being the more fun thing to do? You be the judge.

This past weekend turned out to be fantastic wonderful weather. Sun shining and tummies full from a buffet, we set out for our first visit to the Riyadh Zoo. It seemed like the perfect weekend diversion.

After the first few exhibits, it turned into a pity-fest for us. The orangutans were almost bald, and one of them was limping around on a wounded leg.

It's a bit of a shock for a westerner to see animals being liberally fed by the public. There is a good reason why you are not allowed to do so in any other zoo, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that maybe junk food isn't good for animals (in much the same way it isn't good for humans) not to mention any of the psychosocial factors that weigh into having stuff pelted at them. Popcorn, chocolate bars, used napkins, empty bottles - you name it, it was thrown at an animal at some point. I'm sad to say that it wasn't just the children behind things like that. Makes you wonder whether the right animals have been locked up!

And then there were the curious exhibits that seemed to throw random animals together. See if the below picture makes any sense whatsoever to you. Enlighten me if this mimics any kind of natural habitat anywhere on the face of the earth, and where this mystical place might exist.

On the upside, we did get to see some beautiful animals. The white tigers were stunning and they seemed to be in good shape.

I suppose the whole idea of a zoo itself might be a remnant of our past. They originated before things like television, internet and digital cameras, and it would have been the only way people got to see anything exotic. It seems wrong these days to domesticate wild animals for entertainment value.

The thought of these poor things living through the sweltering heat of a Riyadh summer makes me feel terrible. I'm far from a crazed animal activist (see previous entry on cats), but even I regretted the visit simply on the grounds that humans shouldn't kick ostriches in the face when their child has just offered them a piece of garbage to chew on.

Seriously, what kind of sociopath does that?!


Now you've been warned, so visit at your own risk...


lechatbon said...

You don't mention any children. One of the most difficult aspects of going to the zoo, amusement park or any "family" activity in KSA was the segregation of women and mothers with daughters and children under 12, and on alternating days, men with sons 12 and older and other men, so that whole families could not participate all together. Of course, as you describe the zoo, many families would not be so inclined, anyway. I don't remember the zoo being as bad when I lived there. I do remember its enclosures and pens being more of a throwback to older styles of zoos.

Melissa said...

Oh, that's so sad! :( I hate to see things like this...

We recently went to the Los Angeles Zoo, and it's so nice and clean there.

Orchidthief said...

Yeah, I guess I didn't mention the children. What can I say? They were everywhere.

The zoo has family hours on the weekends now, so there are no longer issues of families getting in together.

The zoo itself looks quite nice, it's just that I think a lot of Westerners and Europeans would not be happy about how the animals are treated when the zoo is operating at full capacity. We just have different cultural values towards animals than the middle eastern population, and I think it's highlighted by the degree to which we enjoy the Riyadh Zoo.

In fact, I am not sure why I felt such an urge to visit the zoo in the first place when the whole concept of it seems a bit cruel to me anyway. In the advent of documentaries, internet, and animal conservation efforts out in the real world, why do we still have a need to see animals up close and in captivity??