The life of an orangutan and the life of zoos


One of the most affecting experiences that I ever had at a zoo was with a Bornean Orangutan at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI. The orang enclosure at that time was quite small and didn’t seem very enriching (it would have been over 20 years ago) – I have no idea if it is any better now. I don’t recall the exact details of my experience, but I do recall locking eyes with one of the orangs, she then reached her hand out towards me – I’m sure that it was all projection, but I was overcome with this wave of sadness it was like I was in the cage looking out with this feeling of hopelessness and despair.

Note: I see that they did renovate the primate habitat about 4 years after I was last there:

In 1995, state-of-the-art habitats are built for Great Apes and Primates - chimpanzee, orangautan, and red-tailed lemur.

I have been to the Oregon Zoo over the decades many times, in the early '80s I remember they were walking with the chimpanzees - some of which are still in the zoo today along with gibbons too. My mother helped bring the first elephant to that zoo. There have been massive good changes to the primate enclosures, the '80s variety of exhibits would make your skin crawl today.

These days I am increasingly troubled especially with the larger, intelligent creatures (elephants and whales in particular besides the great apes) being kept for our pleasure. All of them should be kept for their own sake, not our own. I know funding that is hard without visitors but I am not sure… Ugh. I know I am a carnivore, that we had cattle that we raised, named and ate, but I also believe that respect for animals is important and I am still thinking about what my relationship/our relationship should be to these animals. I would really like to know what happened with Kutai.

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Just to be clear, you’re an omnivore, not a carnivore

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