Review: Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French

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Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives (2010) by Thomas French is one of our favorite books on Species Spectrum’s book shelves. As humanity stays at home during the pandemic and we approach Earth Day, Zoo Story crafts a thought provoking starting point in the world of conservation.

French beautifully illustrates the pros and cons of modern Zoos. Zoos are an imperfect course correction of humanity’s environmental mistakes, obliviousness or economic need and greed. Simultaneously, Zoos offer urban dwellers an eye to eye view with the natural world and it is this eye contact between species that propels the next generation of humanity to care.

Not everyone will be able to go Scuba Diving or on a Safari. Zoos are accessible and an exciting experience for all ages. Yet, the awe of seeing a Sun Bear at the Zoo is followed by the nagging sense that this bear doesn’t have enough space. The boulders are human manufactured, the habitat only emulates the grandness of untouched wilderness. How can one appreciate a Sun Bear if s/he can’t see a real one?

Zoo Story touches on the blatant paradox of preserving threatened animal populations through captive breeding programs in the hope that there will be a swatch of wilderness in which to release a recovery population.

French immediately engages readers in the opening chapter concerning elephants being relocated from an African preserve to an American Zoo. The casual conservationist morally bristles at a magnificent animal being removed from the wild.  Why wasn’t the preserve working to expand wilderness footprints so elephants weren’t forced to board a one way transatlantic flight or face being culled?

Human society has moved well beyond “awareness campaigns.” Awareness was easy. The smell of an old National Geographic magazine proves the timelessness of global curiosity. It’s now about removing bowel obstructions to streamline funding and actions that actually benefit the concept we had in the first place.

How does one instill the value of conservation on a planet with billions of people? Conceptualizing vs first hand experience often provides different levels of motivation to act. In recent decades the idea was that by getting people into nature, everyone would know the pertinence of all species. The world opened to eco tourism until too many people were traveling and throwing banana peels into the winds of nature.

In days past, the outdoorsy crowd never contemplated the aftermath of slinging a banana peel off into the bushes. Wasn’t that better than adding something biodegradable to the trash? During the Lewis and Clark expedition contemplating proper banana peel disposal was never contemplated. It was the dawn of #adventurer that paved the path of millions of weekend warriors to venture onto wooded trails in the name of loving nature over say, cigar clubs.

Where do unwanted grown animals from the exotic pet trade go when profits wane and resources for rescue non-profits are thin? The current reality is that there is no place for all the creatures living in a no man’s land between former pet and native habitat. The current uncertainties of human economies often mean conservation falls from the priorities list.

There is stress inherent in captivity or too much togetherness. For the first time in modern history, millions of humans across all cultures are experiencing weeks of staying home. Sequestered to indoor habitats, devoid of usual extracurricular activities, we are faced with spending more time with ourselves and each other.

Amongst the coronavirus crisis people immediately sought community and connection via #inthistogether. We find bright spots in that our temporarily limited human movement is a boon for the natural world. It would seem each individual’s self-quarantine is far more beneficial to the planet than an Earth Day parade. The true paradox of saving the planet is in our stillness not our activist campaigns.

I’ve ebbed and flowed in my own journey of what it means to be a naturalist or conservationist today. Zoo Story crafts a compelling narrative on conservation education. Read Zoo Story as a family, or with your spouse or pet. Ask your kids how they would address human activity and economy alongside conservation.

Bravo to author Thomas French. Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives is just as relevant now as it was when it was published a decade earlier. Read it and share your thoughts.

Jes

For younger kids please check out Species Spectrum’s kids activities books for some screen free entertainment! And More animals in Volume 2 here! 

 

HOW JURASSIC WORLD’S MOCKERY COULD FORCE SEA WORLD TO DROWN IT’S OUTDATED ENTERTAINMENT PARADIGM

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I motion for genetically modified dinosaurs to eat the Blackstone bigwigs of Sea World.

More seriously, this summer’s revisit to dinosaur man eating hell could be a boon for helping more people realize how ridiculous Sea World’s entertainment platform has always been. Even those who boohoo supporters of Blackfish will probably go see Jurassic World.

Here’s where where box office hits merge with cause (pardon, the ‘cultural media studies’ vibe). All the voices of the Sea World debate are featured in Jurassic World (although it was a shock that women’s tan pumps are still in vogue).

There’s corporate PR full tilt Claire, “People want more teeth and genetically modified dinos are the wave of future entertainment”. There’s the ‘Dino Whisperer’, Owen, “These animals trust me and they have feelings. Don’t eat me Blue!”. There’s Hoskins, “I’m training these raptors for Military Combat and world domination”. There’s Dr. Henry Wu, “All dinosaurs are genetically modified, this embryo is part Monsanto and named after the company”.  There’s Masrani, “You people are up to no good, but I die in a helicopter crash before I can make a difference”.

There’s Barry, “Owen knows best and I know what these animals are capable of, but I am powerless…the woman in the tan pumps makes the decisions”. There’s the stereotypical out to lunch brothers, Gray and Zach. Gray says, “Mommy and Daddy aren’t getting divorced, are they? Hey, that Mega Marine Dino just splashed me! I’m happy again!” Big Brother Zach says, “I totally didn’t want to hang out with you, but now that we bonded over Mega Marine Dino, I’ll always be your brother”.

Suck up the pending divorce Gray and Zach, this is going to take some Animal Rights Activism. Had the boys arrived on Dino Island to free the Dinosaurs, I guess that would have been a completely different movie; one that some would label ‘propaganda’. But for those who believe Blackfish is ‘propaganda’, could we not look at Jurassic World in that very same way? The film does make a complete mockery of that whole ‘Shamu Sea World Splash’ thing. Or are man eating mega dinosaurs enough of a distraction to say the film is purely entertainment?

Jurassic World may be one up from the third sequel where Sam Neil plays a pushover and William H. Macy can’t find that annoying son lost in the jungle. As a mainstream voice immersed in the world of pure air conditioned hot summer entertainment, Jurassic World offers talking points on the morals of animal entertainment and captivity. We can of course dance around that moral circle all night and not reach common ground. Yet, Jurassic World has in affect, raised the question that perhaps being splashed by a magnificent animal in an arena has in fact run it’s course. Just as Claire’s tan pump heels were extremely out of date, so is the paradigm of Sea World entertainment.

These are the “Days of Our Lives” and Orca whales belong in the oceans, not in theme parks. More and more of us are waking up to this. Even Blue the Raptor is on the front lines, “Ocean sanctuary for Tilikum, Lolita, Morgan and all the others!”.

Dispelling the Myth of Shelter Dogs – We are Adoptable!

Can you adopt us?

Can you adopt us? Wilbur & Ranger Contact APA Las Cruces, NM

Wilbur Chihuahua & Ranger Chiweenie are currently looking for a home! Right now, today! They are excellent examples of shelter dogs with everything going for them, except they have no family to call their own. 

Last week I met up with APA (ACTion Program for Animals) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. All of the dogs you see are looking for their forever home. Shelter Dogs Available for Adoption, Las Cruces, NM

We often hear the numbers associated with animal rescue. What is left untold are the many stories of the animals passing through animal shelters. People are at times surprised to hear that the wonderful dog they just met was once on his last day at the animal shelter. Many are in fact truly adoptable, still smiling, playing and loving life.

Shawna has been looking for a home since May.

ADOPT NEW MEXICO BROWN DOG!!! Shawna has been looking for a home since May, 2013. CLICK HERE 

Shelter dogs are NOT always riddled with dysfunction. Sometimes they need a little guidance just like any dog. Sometimes they are the easiest dog to live with you could have ever imagined!

I spent a Saturday morning photographing some of these available dogs looking for their forever home.
Photographing dogs sounds simple. Get out a yummy treat, make a chicken clucking sound for the endearingly cute dog heat tilt. Snap. Done. Instead I ended up with a whole group of dogs, large and small, all racing around a big backyard.

Adopt Jesse

Wilbur, Ranger, Duke, Shawna, Jesse and Tempura are just a small sampling of the dogs passing through the local area animal shelter each week. There’s no way I can photograph every good dog that ends up homeless.

Zeus is an active boy, smart, trainable with one blue eye.

Zeus is an active boy, smart, trainable with one blue eye.

While one neighbor is fostering several dogs, another neighbor has yet one more litter of unwanted Chihuahua puppies. This is a community problem. Let’s stop it. Here’s how you can help:

1. ADOPT. DONATE. EDUCATE. VOLUNTEER. FOSTER  in your community.

2. SUPPORT legislation that seeks to end puppy mills.

2. ENCOURAGE people considering a particular breed to look into breed specific rescue.

3. GET a cool shelter dog! Do you know his story? Tell people.

4. TRAIN your dog to be the best canine citizen he can be. Make him a COOL former shelter dog.

5. BEST DOG TRAINING ADVICE: A tired dog is a good dog 🙂

6. PET FRIENDLY: If you’re a landlord, work to make it possible for renters to have a pet.

7. SPAY/NEUTER your PET. There are many low cost options available. Sometimes it’s even FREE.

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WANNA ADOPT DUKE?
Even pure bred dogs end up at the shelter like Duke, the perfect black labrador! 

Meet Duke, a beautiful, sweet pure bred black labrador. He worships the tennis ball and joyful retrieving. While there are many wonderful breed specific rescue groups, they don’t always have room for another dog. Duke was lucky to land in the care of ACTion Program for Animals, Las Cruces, NM.

Tempura, sharpei for adoption

                      Tempura, a pure bred shar-pei. 

Species Spectrum seeks to personalize the public’s association with rescue and to acknowledge the dedicated individuals and small non-profits working tirelessly to ensure that more dogs, cats and other pets find their forever home.

Please consider adding a shelter dog(s) to your family. Thank you if you already have a shelter dog, cat or other pet. Check speciesspectrum.com  again soon because a few of these wonderful dogs will be featured in our upcoming greeting cards!

-Jes McKay Gilmore

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Loss of Pet: How to Cope

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Bella looks over Enzo’s Grave. Enzo passed away February 24, 2014. He is one of the first Species Spectrum greeting cards. Enzo helped create the best seller, “The real mountain is within you”. He will always be remembered as ‘We need more little dog in the hat”. We love you Enzo.
This sweet photo shows the essence of pet loss. Bella, a one year old rescued German Shepherd looks over Enzo’s grave. Bella was adopted just three months ago where she made friends with Enzo, an adopted Italian Greyhound. When we have beloved pets we are faced with one day losing them.

We are never prepared for this. The grief of pet loss is often  equated with the great pain of losing a human loved one (no offense to people). Our pets are family. Some of us will say the pain is too great and close the door to having another dog, cat or other pet. Grief comes in waves and we all cope differently. Most of us will go get another pet when it is right for us whether that is the next day or the next year. Many will say there is no dog like the dog no longer with us. This is true. No dog will ever be the dog you had before. It will be different, but it will also be great.

I have gone through pet loss many times with my own pets, but also those of friends and people who’s pets I have come to love. Enzo was of of those pets. I’ve been photographing rescue animals and other people’s pets for a long time. Each one has a story and this is what Species Spectrum is about. Enzo was one of the very first greeting cards I designed and published.  He is the basis for essentially the entire Species Spectrum greeting card line and the idea behind it: Showcase rescue animals in a positive way through a product people can share. Enzo has a great story. He was adopted through Greyhound Companions of New Mexico. He was an Italian Greyhound who came from Roswell, NM. Enzo is an example of how many ‘pure bred’ dogs end up needing help in finding a permanent loving home. He definitely found that and spent the remaining six years of his life being treated like the prince of yoga.

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Enzo was a pure bred Italian Greyhound dog adopted from Greyhound Companions of New Mexico

Enzo’s little spirit is missed, but his mission is bigger than the pain of losing him. I am sad he is gone, but at the same time I’m not sad. Here’s why: Enzo lived out his days as well loved dog and died peacefully at home in his fleece dog bed at the age of nearly twelve. Any dog (or pet) that has lived a long life being loved and cared for is lucky. Having worked in animal shelters, I know not every deserving animal is so lucky. This is why I hope that in honoring the loss of your own beloved pet, your grief is tempered by a greater compassion in helping the lives of animals that need someone’s help today.

Enzo, you were one amazing little hound!

Jes McKay Gilmore, speciesspectrum.com

R.I. P Enzo, you are always loved! I wish you lots of Golden Pride Chicken in your next life! Hear Enzo sing! 

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