Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

This week, we visited a zoo and safari park here in Sweden – and gasped in wonder at the yaks, antelope, rhinos, dolphins and tigers. And although these animals are not strictly pets, I’m focusing more on the pride part in this post – pride and respect for other living creatures. So, please! Indulge me.

The rhinos looked like immobile rocks as they snoozed in the sun.

Rhinos and other animals

Rhinos and other animals

Yet – there amidst the amazement – I felt a terrible sadness. A sadness at seeing all these animals in enclosures – for our viewing benefit. I couldn’t help but feel that they would be better off in their natural habitat. If their habitat was still there – and if we weren’t driving them to the brink of extinction, that is.

The sad fact is that very few rhinos can survive outside protected areas these days.

My sadness intensified when we came to the tigers’ enclosure. The size of these magnificent creatures took my breath away. It’s only when you are up close (separated by thick glass, of course) that you can see the pure enormity and power of this animals. It seems so terrible to keep them in these enclosures.

Tiger on a statue

Tiger on a statue

Sadly, tigers are also on the brink of extinction and there are only about 4,000 left in the wild. During the past 100 years, they have decreased by 95% and we have already lost three of nine sub-species, and the fourth one is on its way out. The illegal tiger trade – including being used in Chinese medicine – is wiping out these creatures.

So, are zoos and parks like this one doing a good job in preserving endangered species? They are certainly helping in many ways. And yet – I can’t help wishing that we no longer had any need to keep animals in cages.

What do you think?

In the immortal lines of William Blake:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

For a glimpse at more domestic pets – please visit Pet Pride.

33 thoughts on “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

  1. Oh, I do so feel the same way! Even though we, too, have a lovely zoo here in Seattle that provides a very natural habitat — it’s still not the same as their being free! But I’m not sure that will ever be possible again. I’m glad that zoos do help protect and preserve endangered species, but how much more wonderful it would be for the animals to be able to roam free again! Lovely post, beautiful shots! Thanks for stopping by, always appreciate your comments.
    Sylvia

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  2. I agree Lady Fi, it’s both a blessing and a curse to have them held captive like that. When we were back for my mother’s funeral I took the kids to the little local zoo. They had a young white tiger male..he was MAGNIFICENT but extremely underweight I thought for a tiger of his size. You could see his ribs and such, it was horrible. I took photos of him I might post on my blog at some point, he definitely would have had a better time in his own habitat- if you as you point out, was still there. It’s a double sided sword..unfortunately.

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  3. First off, I’m not a fan of zoos. I have been to many, since I live in a stone’s throw of many – NYC, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island and the little Turtleback Zoo in Montclair, NJ. I hate to see animals in cages.

    I do think that preserves are necessary to prevent extinction. Many species need to be repopulated with human help, but that’s because humans caused their dwindling numbers. I have been through safari parks (we have one here in Jersey at Six Flags Great Adventure) but it makes me blue to see these creatures in such an unnatural habitat. Tigers, elephants, rhinos and others really don’t belong in NJ.

    I wish there were an easy solution to all of this, but there isn’t. I refuse to go to the circus because of the exploitation of animals.

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  4. I hate to see wild animals in cages, but then again if zoos are keeping rhinos, tigers and other magnificent beasts alive, I’m all for it.

    I do have to say that I think zoos are great for children. I remember going to the Pittsburgh Zoo quite often as a kid. I loved being able to see those animals in person. Without a zoo, I am certain I would never get to see a tiger or elephant in person.

    I do want to mention that I find it interesting that people never make as big a stink about aquariums as they do about zoos. I mean, it’s sort of the same thing, right?

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  5. I couldn’t agree more!! The work the zoo’s do is wonderful but it would be much better if it was not necessary!! (I would love to go on Safari to Africa….think that would be amazing!!)

    When we were in Thailand we visited The Tiger Temple just outside Kanchanaburi….I got to touch one of the tigers which was a rather amazing experience!! I didn’t really approve of the temple and hated the fact that the tigers were chained but the idea is that the monks use tourism as a way of raising money and once they have enough the tigers will be transferred to their own protected Island. When we were there we were told that it was only going to be a matter of weeks before they went!!

    C x

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  6. Nice pictures!!!

    Sad thing about the tigers though. Wished they were not imprisoned and were left to wander in the natural habitats. Thankfully, these zoos are treating the animals nicely and are at least providing them with food and shelter albeit they are taking away their freedom. It is at least better than killing them to make medicines.

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  7. Sometimes animals bred in captivity are released into the wild if their habitat is still viable. I don’t care for zoos but wonder if the animals kept in them would simply become extinct if not looked after in this way.
    I’m afraid the popularity of safaris is not helping animals in their natural habitats either – all the visitors have to be serviced after all! Antarctic and Arctic cruises are also upsetting the natural balance.
    I agree with Meg. Aquaria are dreadfully sad places for big fish particularly.
    I do love your photographs though – and at least we can celebrate the fact that these animals are being cared for and fed correctly and being given the best surroundings possible.

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  8. We have a day zoo and a night zoo that are both so popular to locals and tourists. It could be sad to see those in cages but those with a big natural enclosure is better than seeing them in someone’s backyard as pets??? And what about poachers that hunt these tigers or animals for their hides or horns, there’s really no answer to it. But I think animals are stronger and fitter if they are in the wild. My brother used to have a pair of terrapins and one escaped and lost somewhere in our yard but it finally came out of its hiding palce in a few months time. Guess what, the lost one is so much bigger than the one kept in the tank…lol. Brother decided to release them.

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  9. I’m so with you here. I cannot go to these places and just sit back and enjoy myself. I ache for the fact that they are hunted to extinction and their wildlands are disappearing. As a Christian, I believe what the Bible says about God making us stewards over the animals. I take it seriously when he says we must care for them and be responsible toward them and that failing to do so is a sin.

    I know that may not be a popular viewpoint – lots of people chuckle at Christians and our ideas these days – but I will continue to teach it to my children and live it. I’m sorry zoos have to exist but I applaud most of them for the efforts they are making. But it’s not really a pleasure trip. It keeps me mindful, however, and affects the decisions I make. Look for fair-trade items everyone! It supports people and areas where these animals are most endangered.

    Thanks for this, Lady Fi.

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  10. LadyFi;) I agree, these enclosures are bitter-sweet pills to swallow. However, if the animals have been rehabilitated and are part of a breeding program, then these places are necessary. Thanks for posting such a thought-provoking subject. Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comment about my darling Mandu. (I’ve just scrolled down and caught up on many posts) I’ll be over here again soon.

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  11. I think there are a few zoos that try hard to make zoo-life comfortable for the animals.

    However, many zoos are too small and make me very sad to visit. But as you pointed out, maybe the preservation of these beautiful creatures is a positive point.

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  12. at least this place appears to have more space and natural surroundings than a lot of others
    I know how you feel

    I have been on a mission to expose the elephant abuse at Ringling Bros. Circus – I still can’t believe they haven’t been shut down!!

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  13. We have a very small Zoo in our capitol and it always breaks my heart seeing the animals in such small confines. It is a shame that we “the public” seem to need this type of entertainment.

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  14. I feel the same way as you do, especially after a Safari in Kenya, 13 years ago. I wish the animals weren’t in cages for our benefit. I didn’t realize how few tigers were left though.

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  15. I remember that Blake poem from middle school…. brought back many memories..
    and I agree with you. It seems sad to have them captured for our enjoyment….but in the case of some of these, captivity might be what is saving them from extinction…..
    but it is still sad…

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  16. I agree, it is difficult to form an opinion about zoos. Most the animals in zoos have been born into captivity, and if they were released back in the wild in Africa, they would most likely be poached for their skins, tusks, horns, etc.

    Something that has me very disgusted is a TV show Peter and I ran across the other night. It was about people deep sea fishing for a sport. They would compete to catch the largest fish, stingray, etc. and then release it. One group was competing to catch the largest tiger shark, and this one boat caught the shark, hauled it back to shore in the most inhumane way and the shark died. I mean, they killed a shark just for the chance to win money. Makes me mad.

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  17. I also feel conflicted when I visit a zoo-but most of the ones I have been to , do seem to provide excellent and dedicated caretaking-the best in that type of situation, I suppose.

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  18. I agree with your feelings … whenever I visit a zoo I feel mixed up about it. But I guess they are better in a good zoo than being slaughtered in the wild. It is SHAMEFUL that us humans cannot share the world with our fellow creatures.

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  19. I don’t approve of zoos per se, but everything I have read about Sweden and the rules on dog ownership make me think that if you have to have zoos then Sweden must be one of the best countries to have them in.

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  20. This is the one issue that really gets me depressed. Humans are so bad for all the rest of the species on earth. We take and take, and don’t care what happens as long as profits are made. The tiger situation in India is deeply upsetting. Poaching is the #1 cause of deaths of tigers. But how do you stop the demand for these products … what do you do?!

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  21. I agree that the animals are leading a sad life in the cages, and that many would not survive in the wild. But could we not do more free-range zoos (where the animals wander freely in huge areas meant to replicate their natural environment? I think we could.

    I hate caged animals. They break my heart.

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  22. Game preserves try to do the best for the animals, if they can’t live in the wild, then a preserve is really their only option. Some Zoo’s have wonderful breeding programs, they have come a long way in providing “natural” habitat..but nothing beats the wild. Zoo’s are educational.. I hate to see any animal caged.. so I am torn also. Good though provoking post! 🙂

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  23. I have had similar conflicted feelings about zoos.

    We have a polar bear at the Cincinnati Zoo that swims the same circle ALL day. Into the water, under the tree branch, to the surface for a breath, then a rotation onto his back to float a few feet, one kick back under to swim in front of the plexi glass, up to the surface, a hop out of the water, a few steps back around to the spot where he first took his plunge, and then it starts all over again…… I have stood there for an hour watching with sympathy as that poor bear swam in circles as the details of his strokes and movements were replicated over and over and over again……

    It’s a tough one.

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