Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Pins And Needles

Apparently there is a growing controversy over the future role of zoos. Menageries of various types have been in existence for centuries, housing exotic animals for the pleasure of kings and commoners alike. Prior to the impact of mass media, cinema and television, the local zoo provided the opportunity to experience the rich diversity of the world’s fauna in a safe and accessible setting. Students in Mr Rasputin’s biology class might get to cut up the odd frog or flatten the random amoeba between two little glass plates; but to actually watch a python eat Mickey Mouse, it was down to the zoo. Evidence is accumulating, however, that animals are not thrilled to be put in zoos. Polar bears find the 60 square foot pool a bit more constraining than the Arctic Ocean. Chimpanzees get bored pulling the last strand of hair out of their partner while the gorillas can only watch a tire swing back and forth for so long. The average zoo-bound cheetah can only get up to about 11 miles per hour before crashing into the bars. Alarmingly, elephants seem to be getting sick or dying in zoos from Chicago to Detroit to San Francisco. Calls for an increase in the humane treatment of zoo animals are on the increase. (Of course, it is humane treatment that got these animals banged up for 50 years to life in the first place. What they probably deserve is animal treatment.)

There is one zoo that is taking the issue head on. Dr Hock, meet Tun. Tun, meet Dr Hock. Tun is a 15 year old female Asian elephant that weighs 5,300 pounds and lives in the Singapore Zoo. Dr Oh Soon Hock is a veterinary acupuncturist. It is likely that Dr Hock weighs less than 150 pounds. Tun had her leg crushed nine years ago when a male elephant sat on it. There is a concern that her bum leg can’t support her weight and a three legged elephant would only confuse the kids from biology class. Thus are married the ancient Oriental art of acupuncture and the modern concern for animal welfare.

Of course, elephants have very tough hides. Getting Tun to agree to have a small Oriental man drive a railroad spike into her shoulder with a sledge hammer is a bit of a trick. Especially since the good doctor uses an electric acupuncture machine. In order to make sure that the Doctor’s name is not changed to Oh Soon Dead, her keepers coax her with repetitive noises, gently tug on her ears and bribe her with bananas and carrots. Imagine suffering with a sore leg and having the janitor put on an endless Gangsta Rap tape and pull on your ears. Perhaps the bananas and carrots would make up for it, but a good stiff drink would be better.

Dr Oh is optimistic about the course of the bi-weekly treatments. He has brought a cheetah back from a coma (no doubt the patient tried to exceed the 11 miles per hour speed limit). He has also resuscitated an over sedated python; apparently Dr Oh does not resemble Mickey Mouse. In a truly memorable comment, Dr Oh said ‘you must be extra cautious because you don’t want to scare the animal’. Apparently scaring the janitor is not a concern.

There is then hope for the zoo-abiding elephants of the world. As long as Dr Oh is willing to sink a very pointed cattle prod attached to a Sears Die Hard battery into them, medical help is available. The diet of bananas and carrots is also a plus. This treatment might not be useful for the Detroit Zoo however. Being locked up for life in Detroit may be so depressing that even Dr Oh Soon Hock might not be able to cure the patient. Did Sigmund Freud do elephants?


Blogger Abby Taylor said...

Good story! As always.

Let's see.. what can I add that is virtually useless? Ah, yes...

Freud believed the elephants were merely overcompensating.

And, being from Tennessee in the good ol' Southern US, I'm allowed to tell this joke.

What's the difference between a Northern Zoo and a Southern Zoo?

The Northern Zoo has animals, each with a plaque telling the animal's common name, genus, and species.

The Southern Zoo has animals, each with a plaque telling the animal's common name, genus, and species, and a recipe.

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your servers.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Gamera said...

You know, after reading this great post of yours I'm having flashbacks from a certain film.

I can just see Charlton Heston baning on the bars of his cell/cage shouting "It's a madhouse!!! A Madhouse!!!"

Yes indeed, great article.

So... errr.. you live in a cave as well?

1:38 AM  

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