Lately, I have noticed that Zoos Facebook Pages slowly more and more are taking over Zoos educational role. While Zoos in the past would be fairly restricted to which information they passed on to public, the Zoos Facebook pages is on its way of becoming a separate world, often with women in charge, and where different feministic attitudes are dominating almost every story, advocating feminism, without officially declaring this.
Zoos were in the past regarded as scientific institutions, and supposed to deliver unbiased information, with a scientific approach. This is slowly changing when the zoos adapt to the main stream, and create their Facebook pages. It seems often with a female editor, and probably with a journalist background, rather than being a zookeeper or biologist.
Meanwhile, zookeepers are not so often men anymore, as they were in the past, when they were silent cleaners of cages and feeders of animals, Today, we see the new zookeeper taking parts of films, where they speak, almost professionally, about their animals. And it seems some 95% of them are women.
They tell stories for other women, and become role models, and getting famous. You dont see them carry faeces, bales of hay, or tons of fish from a lorry into a freezer any longer. They have become movie stars. And the animals they care for, has become more and more antropomorfistic.
Wikipedia describes Anthropomorphism as:
The attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.
Personification is the related attribution of human form and characteristics to abstract concepts such as nations, emotions, and natural forces, such as seasons and weather.
the elephant Mala in Parc Paradisio. Mala is a female Asian elephant, 57 years old, living in Parc Paradisio in Belgium. Mala was born 1964, probably in India, because she was imported in 1966 to Europe by animal trader George Munro, who bought his elephants India, mostly on the Sonepur Cattle Fair, or in Assam, and shipped them to Europe out from the Port of Calcutta.
Both have ancient roots as storytelling and artistic devices, and most cultures have traditional fables with anthropomorphized animals as characters. People have also routinely attributed human emotions and behavioral traits to wild as well as domesticated animals
Munro sold the elephant to Carl Hagenbecks Tierpark in Stellingen outside Hamburg in Germany, and somewhere along the road she got the name "Mala" which is Singhalese for "flower", but as far as I know, she has zero connection to Sri Lanka, called Ceylon in 1966.
In March/April 1984 she became one of the last victims of the disease Elephant Smallpox, but luckily survived, under veterinarian supervision of Hagenbecks co-owner and director Claus Hagenbeck from the sixth generation of the private owners of the zoo, established in 1907.
Mala lived most of her life in Hamburg, and I met Mala already in 1985 during my practise in Hagenbecks Tierpark. Mala was very stabile, an excellent elephant in regard of training, and she was one of the best during the afternoons, when some 5-6 elephants were brought out from enclosure to the ramps, where children could ride on Mala in saddles.
Mala was sold in July 2012 to Parc Paradisio in Belgium , where she has spent her last nine years under the nickname Brugelette.
Mala was succesfully integrated in Paradisio, and it seems that she took the leading position in the herd
Yesterday was reported on Facebook article about Mala in Zoo Pairi Daiza (Parc Paradisio) that Mala has colic, and hundreds of comments on the zoos Facebook has put the attention to Mala. People upload pictures with candles, pray for her recover etc, as if she was a human relative or a person they had a close social connection to.
No shadow over the Parc Paradisio Zoo, its an excellent Zoo and just an example I choose to take when analyzing when a Zoos information becomes public on Facebook, and anyone can make comments.
What struck me was that theres less focus on Elephant colic medical remedies, pathology and more individual focus on Mala as a symbol of something, which is difficult to describe.
Somehow, I get the feeling that her condition becomes commercialized, and that persons profit on her destiny in a way, where they express emotions and send her their greetings.
But Mala will never see or read those greetings, or watch all ballons and candles. Shes got pain in her stomach, thats all she knows. And she dont know all those people that "love" her, and pray for her. She probably wouldn't care less, if she saw pictures of balloons and candles.
The entire Facebook article about Mala reflects very much how Zoos informational role is rapidly undergoing changes, and where the Zoos educational websites becomes a secondary thing, which few people read, while their Facebook section takes over. In a very different way. Theres indications that Zoos Facebook pages can become a pseudo-world, where the public may take over, and the Zoos may loose control over how their information is received, spread and politically transformed, and where their animals become "victims" of over-emotional reactions, Anthropomorphism and subjects of ignorance, rather as parts of a zoos biology education program. I cant stop thinking that its a high risk of those Zoo Facebook Pages gets changed into what is nwdays referred to as "emotional porn"
I see this as a part of development that started in the 60s, and became more formalized in the 70s, it has a history, it started to become more extreme with the film Solo, by Baron Hugo van Lawick and his then pretty young wife, Jane Godal. Hugo van Lawicks film about Solo called "Wild Dogs Tale - The story of a lonely African wild dog. (Or, the story of Solo, a lonely African wild dog that has befriended a number of jackals and hyenas in the Okavango Delta. Solo has helped the jackals raise their pups as if they were her own...)
Until then most nature films were more like documentations, with the exemption of Disney productions, where Disney nature films would create "stories" where some animals were challenged with problems, where the viewers became sad and cried and the public were supposed to identify with them and the story. Most Disney nature films had a happy ending, and in the end the poor animals always survived so the viewers could feel happy again.The Curse of the Crying Boy
It all began in the 1950s. A Spanish artist named Giovanni Bragolini made a series of paintings that depicted a young child crying. He sold those paintings to tourists as a reminder of the orphans of World War II. Oddly enough, people in England, especially young couples, grew fond of these paintings. Mass prints of the paintings were sold across the country.
Anyhow, except for some Disney Nature films most nature films I saw until middle 70s were kind of educational, transfer the beauty and reality of Nature.
The film about Solo would change this, although the film became criticized by biologists and zoologists. It was the obvious that a hunt on a sebra detailed VERY close, was performed by a chemical sedation, probably with Xylazine (commonly known as Rompune) of a sebra, so the hunt could be filmed very close, and the sebra could not escape, since it was obviously drugged.
In the film, the camera man seem to sit on a Landrover, which follows the hunt only on meters distance, while the sebra with a light sedation, is fleeing from a pride of hunting lions, but the sebra just runs stupidly straight forward, and doesnt perform a natural fleeing behaviour, why Baron van Lawick could film the kill by the lions, which of course made a strong emotional impact on the viewer,
MAYBE some semi-tame lions that would accept a running Landrover meters from their hunt were actually used in the film, since its hard to believe that a totally wild pride of Lions would perform a hunt, with a running LR in high speed some meters away, with a filming photographer...Jane Godall became world famous as primate researcher. In her late life, she has become an animal rights activists, She is the former president of Advocates for Animals, and was involved in the termination of elephant keeping in Toronto Zoo, when she, regarded as "elephant specialist" reccommended sending their elephants to the Tuberculosis infected Elephant Sanctuary known as PAWS ARK 2000 in California
This was of course not the best option, from a professional point of view, sending healthy elephants to a place where it was highly possible they they would be infected with a lethal infection disease.
But Animal Activists wrote:
Some of the most renowned and respected scientists — Cynthia Moss, Joyce Poole, Winnie Kiiru, Keith Lindsay and Dr. Jane Goodall — have recommended the PAWS ARK 2000 sanctuary to Toronto Zoo as a retirement home for the three African elephants, Thika, Toka and Iringa. Why does AZA consider their years of experience as unimportant, and continue to threaten Toronto Zoo with the horrors of lack of accreditation?
I described the Sanctuarys TB situation in my 2012 blog Tuberculosis in two U.S. elephant sanctuaries, after which PAWS threatened to sue me, see PAWS threatens to sue me? Heres the laywers letter.)
Back to Solo:
In those days, such a way of manipulating animals for film making with chemical sedation, was a big NoNo, which was one of the reasons why the film was criticized. A second issue was that it didnt tell a true story, but was a created and fabricated story made to attract emotional people who didnt ask too many questions.
I remember when my teacher on Zookeepers school Mr Helmut Pinter, would criticize the sedation of an animal for a film production, and the young girls in the class would aggressively attack his arguments, and defend poor little Solo, and if I during later discussions claimed that Solo was probably 5-9 different African Wild Dog puppies filmed on different places, and all of them well cared by their mothers, the girls would get totally frustrated aggressive and tell me how stupid I was.
Back n 1974-1976 when I saw the film, we were two boys and sixteen girls in the zookeepers class. and when I came in discussions with my teenage female classmates about the film, was the first time, wen I became attacked for being "primitive", emotionally disturbed, perverted, extreme, stupid etc, and the young women would try to expel me from the social group, as "punishment" for my "bad behaviour". And I would be criticized for not "loving animals".
But at least they didnt threat to sue me, like Pat Derby, owner of PAWS would later do, when the truth I wrote in Pat Derby (1942-2013) cofounder of Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) disturbed her.
I would later see this even more extreme when the ARAS became more and more dominant in the 90s, and they share the general things, they are over emotional, anti reality, and believe that in every sitiuation that there is a "right" and "wrong" and the people who think "right" belong to a cultural elite.
It seems today, rather many western women, too many, has become pretty infantile, naive, and over emotional AND they are dominating the social climate on many media sites with this, and the more distance they have to nature and animals, the more extreme they get. This development had a break through in late 70s and early nineties, when whales, dolphins, and elephants during the "new-age" era became more popuar and filled with Anthropomorphism and in the book "Elephant Memories" the author Cynthia Moss would label elephants as living in matriarchy. Soon dolphins were also considered matriarchal, and super intelligent.
Many, especially women, would during the "New Age" identify with the New Age Animals. Tattos with dolphins, and investing money in "swimming with dolphins" trips, and when they returned home, telling most exciting stories, for their female friends, how they experienced bonding with the dolphins, or when they during the three minutes they put their hand on an elephants head think they became a friend of this elephant.
Also, all bullshit of course, and if you told the women how male dolphins would rape female dolphins, OR younger males, they would go mad with hate. Or that "their friend" the elephant would probably try to kill them, if they would go close, without its Mahout nearby. I earlier described my point of view regarding all this in an earlier blog: Can elephants suffer in elephant sanctuaries, as an effect of volonteers exploit and opinions?
But in this world its legal to create your own reality, if you dont appreciate the real one, and you can share this "pseudo-reality" with your friends, and create consensus that "its all true" why a "consenus" is more and more often regarded as an evidence. Regardless if a scientific publications speaks othervise. And since they belong to a culture Elite, they are entitled to downgrade other human beings.
So, since the 90s farmers, hunters, Circus people are "bad people" :
- Hunters performing legal hunts are hated. Even if they contribute to species conservation
- Educated Wildlife officers especially if performing culling of animals, are hated.
- Circus, and Circus people are hated
- Because as "everyone" knows, hey dont "love" animals, regardless if they spent all their life with them, fed them, washed them, helped them when they were sick, etc.
- The rains failed in 1976 and as a result there was a terrible drought in Amboseli. Many elephants died that year particularly young ones [...] Of the 29 calves that were born to the whole population in 1976, 14 died before they were a year old. [...] More than half the calves born that year died.[...] Only two calves had been born to the Amboseli population between January 1977 and November 1978. During the drought the females had stopped reproductive cycling altogether.
- In 1984 there was another serious drought and again many elephants died: 11 adult females, 13 adult males, three juveniles, 13 weanlings, five second-year calves, and 22 first-year calves.
- 2009 everything changed dramatically for Amboseli including for the elephants, other wildlife, people and livestock. The area and much of Kenya experienced the worst drought in living memory. [...] Nearly 400 elephants died during 2009 including 250 calves. [...] 83% of the wildebeests, 71% of the zebras, 61% of the buffaloes, and 25% of Amboseli’s elephants died.