Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dances With Meerkats

Alright, maybe in hindsight it was a slight overreaction. I'm a stuffed toy, I was never going to be hanging around any high-risk areas, that much is true. And I might also add here that I never supported Bush's invasion of Iraq. But just as I had managed to console myself over the first round of bombings with second and third helpings of fried breakfasts, along came the news of more attempts and then the frenzied point-blank shooting of an innocent electrician.

Clearly food was no longer sufficient solve the problem at hand. Moreover for my own mental health I felt I had to do something drastic. There was a general vibe that looking "foreign" in London was going to be this season's big fashion no-no, and I, with my Asiatic eyes and non-British origins, was not feeling lucky. Mistress had been besotted with her English beau for some time now and, I suspected, not likely to leave London in the near future. Meanwhile, I was panicking. Life had barely begun for me, and I was not eager to become a fragment of frizzled fabric before I'd seen the world. So last week, I made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Tomoko (she had wanted to leave too, but lack of mobility in her limbs prevented her), and head to a distant place.

Which brings me to this post, which I am writing from an undisclosed location in Sydney, Australia. (Mistress, in case you're reading this, I'm well and I love you, but I hope you understand that I needed to do this for myself.)

I can however reveal that I had a most enjoyable excursion to the Taronga Zoo in Mosman today. It was a gorgeous, sunny, 18-degree day (I can't believe I've just discovered Australian winters. Snow is so overrated) and I was spending it communing with nature against a backdrop of stunning harbour views. Mosman is a very strange place though. I was reading in the paper that Mosmanites have one of the biggest eco-footprints of any group of people in Australia. An eco-footprint is basically the amount of resources, measured in land area, that it would take to support a person's particular lifestyle. The global average is two point something hectares, whereas a Mosmanite's is seventeen point something. I can certainly believe that, since I was nearly killed by 4WDs about ten times over today, not to mention being temporarily blinded in one eye by a flying daub of babycino foam as I walked down Spit Road.

I must say, though, zoos aren't really what they used to be. Once upon a time they were an almost unanimously-loved concept, a place of nuclear family outings and soft focus first dates, bringing man and nature together in a wonderful and commercially viable setting. Nowadays zoos seem to be constantly fraught with animal rights controversies. To some, zoo-keepers are barely one rung up from those horrible people who beat baby bear cubs in circuses, or those Indian snake charmers who so cruelly hoodwink their snakes by repetitively charming them out of their baskets only to stuff them back in afterwards. I call upon Exhibit A, an article from the Animal Planet website on the forthcoming introduction of eight endangered Asian elephants into Taronga Zoo.

To the activists, I say: what you talkin bout, Willis?!? The article said the elephants were raised and working in a logging camp in Thailand before it was arranged they would come to Taronga. Do you think, after a life of captivity, they would have done particularly well if someone just opened the gates on them and said "Go. Be free". I'd think not. On the other hand, if after a life of forced labour, if someone said to them: "Would you like to stop dragging these logs around and move to some prime Sydney harbourside real estate, enjoy a life of regular feeding, sub-tropical climate, adoring fans, and have the opportunity for expert zoologists to try to make lots of little babies to replenish your species", do you think they'd be likely to refuse? Again, I'd think not.


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