close relations

A very Anglican Eden surfaces in the 1970 guide to Woburn Wild Animal Kingdom in the UK. Anyone who has read this blog regularly knows how fascinated I am by our changing attitudes about other species and our self-injuring relationship to the rest of Nature.

Try lion cub for a lark.

One of my personal favorites. What communicates a sense of serenity better than a fashionable (barefoot?) woman with a bobblehead in tow?

It is this sort of thinking that crept to the fore during my recent story on Lucky the elephant and prompted me to Tweet “Are zoos our diversity arks or an excuse for our conservation failures?”

SA Zoo Director Steve McCusker is to speak on his favorite safari memories at an upcoming zoo event, I'm told.

It wasn’t rhetorical — I still don’t know what the answer. I’m pretty sure that ecosystem-level conservation (that would put a lot of private land in Texas under immediate protections) is the place to start.

While I don’t consider myself “anti-zoo,” I have ideas about what such an institution should look like. It’s not the SA Zoo. It’s not Woburn Wild Animal Kingdom. Is it New Orleans’ “frozen zoo?

Writes Margo Higgins wrote for Environmental News Network a few years ago:

Human population growth, pollution and habitat loss are taking a heavy toll on Earth’s wildlife, scientists have long warned.

Every hour, one animal species disappears from the planet, according to some estimates.

So where might one find a Noah’s ark in the 21st century? It’s all happening at the University of New Orleans’ “frozen zoo.”

The zoo consists of a frozen stockpile of embryos, eggs, sperm and other cells collected from endangered species and preserved in liquid nitrogen. The idea is that the samples can be thawed and used to produce offspring if an animal nears extinction.

“We’re banking DNA that we know can result in babies,” explains Betsy Dresser, director of the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species at the zoo. “If someone had thought to do this with the mammoths or the dinosaurs, they might still be around.”

I wrote about extinction slightly differently in my Free Lucky! (Then What?) article. Semi-solid plans for an African elephant breeding program here in SA got their first trumpet — that and the unfortunate fact that the zoo really has no long-term plans for Lucky, their 48-year-old lonely Asian elephant, as the Africa Live exhibit enhancements roll on.

If you are interested in seeing Lucky sent to the Tennessee Sanctuary, you may want to check in with the “animal extremists,” as McCusker (pictured above) calls them.

Still getting comments on the story. I hadn’t realized there was a similar push going on up in Dallas.

Needy elephants everywhere…

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