Walking on the Wild SideOpinion
For years, PETA has provided me with material, free of charge, for my columns. Whenever I’m in a bind to meet a deadline, I can generally do a Google search for whatever nonsense PETA has been up to lately, and get a pretty decent column out of it. So for reliability and dependability, PETA gets an A+. I can always count on them to do the wrong thing.
There are very few things, of course, that I agree with PETA on. Actually, I’ve only found two, so far. One is circuses, and the other is zoos. Neither of those organizations treat animals with the respect I think they deserve. And circuses don’t treat clowns all that good either, but that’s another story.
Those of you who have been paying attention to the news know that zoos have been getting a lot of press lately. One of those was the Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, North Dakota. The story, sent to me by several concerned readers, proves what I’ve been saying for years. Namely, the southern U.S. is not the only place infested with rednecks.
Dave Shepard and Cody Nelson Kage, aged 21 and 23 respectively, managed to get themselves pretty well sauced up and decided to visit the Roosevelt Park Zoo one night, after hours. They clumb the fence (past tense of ‘climb,’ for rednecks) and got into the zoo, and then clumb another fence to get way too close to the bear enclosure. At that point, there was just one fence between Bubba and Billy Bob and the bears (which would make a pretty good name for a Country & Western band).
They started taunting the bears, to try to get them to come closer, in a real life example of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Dave poked his arm through the fence and waved it around, and a bear obliged by coming over and biting his hand.
Now, I did something similar once. I was told there was a raccoon in a cardboard box with holes cut in it, so I stuck my finger in one of the holes, and almost lost it. I was also six years old at the time. And totally sober.
Although it would be nice if that were the only zoo incident of late, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the case of the Chilean goofball who recently took off all his clothes and hopped into a lion enclosure with a couple of African lions at the Metropolitan Zoo in Santiago. The man’s name was not mentioned in any of the stories I found about this incident, but he was 20 years old, which is definitely old enough to know better.
The lions mauled the guy pretty good, and had to be shot to keep them from killing him. Alejandra Montalba, the zoo director, said she was “deeply affected” by the deaths of the lions. For once, I agree with her, too. The lions just did what lions are supposed to do. Plus, this incident happened during operating hours, and the zoo was full of people. It’s bad for business if you stand by and allow the clientele to be consumed by the exhibits.
Our other zoo story comes from a zoo in Cincinnati, which was still in Ohio, last time I checked. A four-year-old boy gave his parents the slip and managed to get into a gorilla enclosure, falling about ten feet into a shallow moat. The male gorilla, who was the only authorized inhabitant of the area, came over and grabbed the kid, and drug him around the pen for ten minutes. That’s how long it took the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team to get there.
Now, ten minutes isn’t a long time, under ordinary circumstances. These weren’t ordinary circumstances. And I’m not totally blaming the parents, since my wife and I raised three boys, and I have firsthand experience of how quickly they can disappear, especially when there’s something dangerous nearby, like a precipice, or a busy highway, or a politician.
Anyway, the zoo people really didn’t want to kill the gorilla, but they didn’t have a choice. They had tranquilizer guns, but that stuff doesn’t work immediately, and it usually irritates the gorilla. Can’t blame the gorilla, either. I’d be mad, too, if somebody shot me with a big dart. So they had to use a real rifle and kill the gorilla to save the boy.
Of course, the animal rights crowd immediately started making animal-rights-crowd-type noises, claiming the gorilla should’ve been sedated, and they didn’t need to kill it, and a gorilla has just as many rights as a child, yada yada yada. Typical nonsense, which is why no one with an IQ higher than concrete ever pays any attention.
Personally, I think wild animals belong in wild places, where God meant for them to live. I don’t think we’d have these kinds of problems if we put the bears back in the northwest United States, and the lions back in Africa, and the gorillas back in, uh, wherever gorillas belong, and the rednecks back in Mississippi . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who plans to start a foundation to lobby for clowns’ rights. Write to him at [email protected]