Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My time at Monarto
As you know, I disappeared from blogland for a few weeks before Christmas, because I went 'home' to South Australia (from my second home, here in West Australia). Why was I there? Well, of course I wanted to catch up with wonderful family and friends, but I was also set to do one week of work experience at Monarto Zoo, a large open-range zoo not too far from where I used to live (and where my Grandma still lives). You can read about Monarto Zoo at their website Now, I think we need to get some things clear here: in general, I do not agree with zoos. I do not agree with locking up an animal for the amusement of humans. I do not agree that zoos are that great for education - what they teach kids is that we can do whatever the hell we like with animals, really. I do not agree with the 'conservation' concept, except in cases where animals are actually successfully released into the wild (I'll come back to this!) I would rather a species be extinct than only existing in zoos. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but I'm interested in the suffering of individuals - if an animal is confined to the unpleasant life in a zoo, just so people can say "that's the last... X... on Earth" I see no point.

Now we're clear on that, I'll tell you why I was doing work experience at a zoo. I am studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery - when I finish my degree in 3 years I will be a qualified veterinarian. However, I am planning on being a full time animal rights activist and not a vet, because that is my passion and what I want to devote my life to. I am getting this degree because, sad as it is, people pay more attention to you if you have a bunch of letters after your name. Basically, I think the degree will increase my credibility, which will allow me to do more for the animals. As A part of my course I have to do 5 weeks work experience on farms, but we are permitted to do one week at a zoo or wildlife park instead. I tossed the options up and decided zoo would be better than piggery, lol. So I spent a week at Monarto Zoo. And it was an amazing experience, interacting with the beautiful animals there. It was sad, because I knew that this is not what their lives should be and this is nothing like how they would be in the natural environment, but I tried my best to just enjoy it for what it was, and I did. Plus I taught the meat-loving keepers a bit about raw veganism, lol! So without further ado, here are some pictures:

This is a Tasmanian Devil, native to Australia, crashed out in its newly renovated house. They look super cute from a distance but the have the name 'devil' for a reason, lol! Throw them a piece of meat and they go nuts, tear it to shreds in seconds! Sadly, the wild population (already not huge) is currently being ravaged by a horrible, fatal transmissable facial tumour condition. A lot of research is going into causes, transmission, possible cures etc, but they haven't got far yet.

Here's a lemur. I really disliked the lemur environments - they were kept in quite small cages with only concrete flooring and dead tree branches for climbing. All 7 of them were males and they weren't even on public display... basically, they were pointless. Nevertheless, they were beautiful animals to interact with - being primates, their hands seem so human. They take food from you and are so gentle - touching them made me feel very special inside!

The American Bison moved me deeply as well, just looking at them. On one hand, they are symbolic of not only mans' dominion over the animals but also white mans' dominion over those of other races (I'm talking, of course, about the mass slaughter of the bison when white man first came to america). On the other hand, their sheer size simply made me gasp. But at the same time, they seem so gentle!

Similarly, the rhinos were incredible in that they are obviously amazingly strong, yet seem so docile. They too made me very sad - each morning they are slowly walked from small night yards into larger day yards. Each evening they are slowly moved back. They are fed the same thing day in, day out. There is precious little variability or interest in their day. People say that zoos keep animals healthy and safe, with food shelter and water, so what's the big deal? But if You were kept permanently locked in a house, moved from the bedroom to the living room and back again, with the same 5 people, every single day, would you enjoy it? Sure, you're healthy, clean, have people to talk to... but it just isn't enough!!

Here's me with one of the cheetahs, I can't remember whether is was Tsotsi or Ascari (most of the animals that are named have names from their natural country). There are three young brother cheetahs who were all hand raised and trained and are used as 'ambassador cheetahs.' The head cheetah keeper, who raised them, said explained that she never wanted them to be hand-raised, she wanted their lives as 'normal' and natural as possible, but their mother go very sick while she was lactating. If you're interested they do purr just like a domestic kitty, but their fur is bristly not soft.

This little sweetheart is a critically endangered Black-flanked Wallaby (another Australian native) who was being hand-raised by a keeper at the zoo. This brings me to what I mentioned before about conservation - the zoo is involved in a small number of programs for the conservation of Australian natives, that actually involve the release of animals back to the wild to try and re-establish a wild population. I can see the value in this and I support it, to an extent. Let's leave it there shall we?

Well, congratulations if you got through that, lol!
Have a totally awesome day and don't forget to check out my e-Book, on sale now!!


At 9:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Freedom, Your zoo stint sounds as if it was truly memorable. I wonder if the non carnivorous animals felt safer with you because there was no meat odour?

I last posted some months back (I live in Perth) and you told me about the raw food picnics but sadly there was a family crisis and I had to go out of state. I would love to connect with fellow raw foodists in Perth and am hoping you can direct me to a web site or time or place for next picnic :)

At 5:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous.

If you go to http://www.raw-pleasure.com.au/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,71/ you can find some Perth people on there and info about picnics etc. ;)

At 2:39 pm, Blogger Freedom said...

Hi anonymous 1,I wondered that about the animals too. But animals have always seemed very comfortable with me even when I still ate meat so I think I'm just truly lucky on that one.
I hope everything is going okay in your family now; there is a Perth picnic happening on January 20th (Sunday) at about 3.30pm at Whitfords Beach. I will be there, it would be great to see you. I am planning on having a potluck event at my house sometime soon as well.

Thanks for that anonymous 2!

At 7:57 am, Blogger Seitan Wörshipper said...

thats looks you have had interesting working-experience, many different animals.You are becoming to work in vet when yuo come to finish your studies? It`s nice to read some of your experiences during that studying!

At 8:07 am, Anonymous Kate Quinn said...

Hi Freedom!

I had wondered where you were! Looks fascinating, but zoos are so sad. You're making my heart ache for the Lemurs. Did the park give any explanation about why they weren't on display?

Hopefully we'll catch up on Sunday, I'd love to hear more about it.

And a huge congrats on your e-book!!

Cya, Kate

At 6:29 pm, Anonymous sam said...

Zoo's are or can be a very sad place. I went to the Denver Zoo in the US last summer and while it was fun to see the animals, the only ones thriving were the little babies as they didn't know better and weren't bored yet. So sad. Well anyways, great post!

At 9:09 am, Blogger VeggieGirl said...

oh, these pictures are fabulous - the animals are so gorgeous and striking!!

I'm not a fan of zoos - so much heartbreak to think of how the animals are treated and put on display/exploited :0(

At 12:12 pm, Blogger The British Vegan said...

I just spent a year in Australia and I loved it so much, your photos make me miss it! I think it's really good how much work Australians do in conserving your natural wildlife. I don't really agree with zoos either, but like you, I kind of agree with raising the animals to release them in the wild at some point to try and preserve the species sort of thing.

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