Zoos Be Damned ...

by JR Hager II

... but then again, what are we going to do with them, our fur, feather, and scaled faced friends?

If we leave these animal treasures alone, and leave them where they are, they will perish to extinctville. Doomed to become a stuffed replica gathering dust in a museum; entirely out of their element. Now isn’t that an especially nice message to leave for our future generations. Tell our kids that we killed them, to save them.
I use to enjoy zoos. Meet people there. “Psss ... over by the monkey cage.” Take leisurely strolls or read on many of their benches, in my travels. Zoos were, I say were, serene and with all the chirps and growls I felt as if I was in Africa. 
Till that day I'll have to find my serenity elsewhere. A day that will live in my infamy. A day distinctly remembered, as is the zoo that I had my choke of an awakening. My horrid experience that changed my view of all zoos to come. It was at the 'primate' area at the Atlanta Zoo. It is where I wept and, well .... It was my first day there. And ‘See Willie B’ was the first sign that met my eye after I paid my entrance fee. So naturally, I'm gullible, I followed the arrow to his cage. I shouldn’t have. Should have continued on through the zoo, which was as nice a zoo as I’ve been to. It was very clean and well kept. There was trees and foliage everywhere and they did a good job in making it a ‘habitat’ rather than just another zoo. Or at least it looked that way on the outside.

My  Y o u T u b e  Channel

Willie B was quite famous.

by JR HagerI had seen his picture in the paper (Atlanta Journal and Constitution) a couple of weeks before, and noted that in this picture he was watching TV. Which I first found to be comical, but when I stepped into his building, a building all his own with ‘Willie B’ in big neon letters above the stone threshold, my emotions went the opposite way. My heart slipped out of my chest and plopped to the cement floor. Tears surfaced.

Needless to say, I didn’t last long. It was a cage no matter how they spruced it up. No matter how many chairs they had in there with him, he sat on a Lazy Boy. No matter how many TVs were in there with him; only one. One was too many. It was still a cage. There were still bars between him and I. He was in jail, there was no two ways about it. But for what?
What was he busted for?
What law was it that he broke, that his life had to be ruined?
And who are we to think that he likes sitting there watching TV, instead of being in the wild?
Was he snatched from his family?

I could not stay any longer ....

....as I’ve said. Even if he didn’t turn his head and look at me, eyes blood-shot; watching him watch TV was quit enough for me. Whether it was a station break and a commercial came on I didn’t know, my stomach felt like it was about to follow my heart to the floor. I could only surmise later, beside the monkey cage, no less, and after bumping into a lot of people on the way out, what his look meant to me. And it was not the look of love that put me on my knees loosing my breakfast. It was a look of complacency. A look I can only describe as the look a lobotomy would bring on, or an opiate of some description. None the less, it struck me hard. He looked at me as if I put him there. A peer that pierced me. He left me with a wound that never has healed.

And if that wasn’t enough.

When there wasn’t anything left in my stomach and my eyes had dried some, I looked up to find I was being watched, and quite intensely I might add. There must have been thirty pairs of chimp eyes glued on me. My retching must have alerted them. “Hey, look at this one,’ if I knew chimp talk.

And why not? There was something different for them to observe, on the outside. A show for them to watch, for a change. To watch instead of being watched, and gawk they did. Many of them were in a ‘freeze frame’ stance, either about to jump on or off something. Some were stuck between eating or chewing, and others had halted their grooming rituals to watch me. I was the star attraction. Now the ‘actors’ were critiquing my show. This made me feel uneasy as well. In my nervousness I probably smiled, and since I had no more in my repartee, no other skit I could follow with, so I just bowed and turned away. A bow more of embarrassment rather than a 'thank you for being here.' But after a few steps away and gaining rapidly, I looked back. Maybe I expected a sort of chimp applause or it was the guilt of leaving a mess behind without even attempting to cleaning it up, I don’t know, but I was sorry I did. Just as sorry as I was being at the zoo today. There was so many other places I could have been. Having a tooth filled at the dentist seemed more inviting to me at the time.

Most of the chimps had already gone about their business ....

...as if I was never there. But a few, maybe three or four, had gone over next to the fence to where I was hauntched over moments before. And what they were doing, well, you guesed it. It turned my stomach, again. I stopped in disbelief and discussed. They have found my puke, and found it palatable. These poor animals commenced to chow-down on it with a relish. One there, as if I wasn’t grossed out enough, seemed to find what I left not quite measuring up to his taste buds. And, as if to prove it to his buddies he found something better and fresher. He reached behind himself and scooped up a hand full of his own feces with the grace as if he's done it before, and the mannerisms of a chef.

What the hell was going on here?

This wasn’t a zoo, it’s a freaken cuckoo’s nest. These once beautiful wild critters had gone nuts. They not only lost their freedom in the deal, they lost their sanity in the process. Or is this what’s to be expected? This is what happens to our own prisoners we put behind bars. Should we be surprised? Duh.

“Stamp your hand?” The lady asked at the gate, catching me on the way out. Her nose curled when she got closer to me; no doubt smelling my breath. “Oh, no thanks, I’ll never be back,” I told her. And have kept my word.

Leaving, I felt guilty. I wanted to release all the animals. And I wanted to put a pillow over Willie B’s head and say,” you’re coming with me, Willie.” But I heard he died a few years later after my visit, thank goodness; finally free to fly over this cuckoos nest. Finally done with his time, and no added worry about probation. He was there for twenty years.
by JR Hager II 

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