As a child we I loved the polar bears in the zoo. They were very entertaining with their antics and lumbering gait. I had no thought that they shouldn’t be there in captivity. I just loved to watch them. The penguins were my second choice. They played on their slide and walked around like Charlie Chaplin. In the 50’s you didn’t dream of visiting exotic locales. You learned about the world through books and social studies classes, or maybe TV if you had it. The zoo was entertainment and education. The aquarium added in later years became a place for solitude and reflection as a young adult. At that age I knew they didn’t belong there but, I did love to watch them. Any bad day was made better by a visit to watch the dolphins or the fish. It’s the reason people have fish tanks.
I have always had a special relationship with animals. Sometimes I think I am more at ease around them than humans. It is the reason I live with four dogs, six cats, a goat, a duck and a canary. Wayward animal souls seem to find their way to my heart and my home.
My grand-daughter loves zoos. Her family has a membership so that they can visit zoos up and down the west coast. Its one of their favourite pastimes for vacation get a ways. I know that Gigi has my love for animals. She certainly loves my menagerie. I remember her telling me with great excitement that a koala bear was a marsupial. She learned it in pre-school. She could name all sorts of other marsupials as well. She also knew what area they lived in, what was their habitat and if they were in danger of extinction. More than I would have known at three years of age. We have a zoo in our city here. It is a collection of bears, wolves, fox, birds of prey, elk, and deer; animals native to this region. The bears are old and this is their life. The habitat is bearable but small in comparison to the vastness of a natural habitat. There is an educational component to the zoo but they make their money to keep operating on holidays like the ‘teddy bears picnic” or “Christmas lights”. You have to have the entertainment factor.
Today I prefer to see animals in their native and natural environment. Take the bear who loves the saskatoon berries in my backyard. Is my back acreage really his natural environment? Pretty much. We are encroaching on his journey for food. He knows where all the saskatoon berries are and where the apple trees are. His ancestors have been walking this path for centuries probably. Can I stand there and watch him for a long time? Of course. He is very entertaining. Just a young guy. Probably his first year on his own. Its fun to watch how he pulls the branches down so he can glean every berry. Once finished he is on his way. I was just ten feet from him the other day. I had gone down to the creek to check the water level and saw him out the corner of my eye. At first I though I had left one of the gates open and that a dog had followed me. We looked at each other and I swear he gave a look of thanks. We purposely left the creek bank vegetation full this year and he has lots of privacy to eat in peace with out human distraction.
Yes, I feed the bears by not destroying their source of food and by living harmoniously with them in their habitat. I have had many encounters with bears throughout my life. I love them and want my great grand children to be able to enjoy them. We can all get a long. Isn’t that the reason we are here?