This is a really cool article that decribes how animals will act when taken out of there natural environment. It’s written in this manner to show that humans(animals) have also been taken out of there natural environment and it’s quite frankly been disastrous. Just look at the state of health in the United States.
by Frank Forencich with special thanks to Troy Corliss
“The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.”
Everyone remembers their first trip to the zoo. We all have a deep fascination with our living relatives, whether we’re willing to admit our close kinship or not. Zoos are one of the most popular of all leisure-time activities for Americans, consistently ranking above popular pastimes such as sports.
Things were a bit different in my home town, though. Everyone wanted to go to the zoo, but aside from a local petting park, we didn’t have much to boast about. A few goats, a pony and a lama on loan from a local farm were about all we could muster. So, we resolved to take action. We passed a bond issue, raised some money and began to build. Our zoo was going to be fancy, just like the big city zoos.
Somehow, I got roped into the process. Someone said that I knew a lot about animals and would be good to have on the board of directors. I did my best to duck the job, but they persisted and I soon found myself going to meetings and pondering the merits of zoo design, funding and administration. I was right in the thick of the action.
Everything went according to plan, at least at first. We consulted a raft of experts on animal behavior and habitat. We laid out plans for humane and species-appropriate sections of our zoo. We built a rain forest, an African bushland, an alpine forest and a coastal swamp. How we fit it all into a city block, I’ll never understand, but we did it and we were proud. All the plants took root, the cages and moats all fell into place and everything looked great.
But then we made a big mistake. After interviewing dozens of qualified applicants, we hired a zoo manager who, as far as we could see, had all the right qualifications: degree from a major university, experience in big city zoos, impressive resume, the works. And, to top it off, he had an MBA and a graduate degree in marketing. He was a real go-getter.
Our man had a sharp “new zoo” concept designed on a business model. As he saw it, the whole point of the zoo was to raise money for shareholders. “You’ve got to run a zoo like a business,” he explained. And so, we needed a twist, a new concept that would appeal to our target audience.
He told us that consumers were bored with the “old-school zoo” and standard animal displays. “No one wants to see lions on the savanna or monkeys in the jungle anymore,” he told us. “People are tired of seeing animals in places where they would actually live. They want contrast. They want different. They want new.”
I started to get uneasy at this point. Something about this guy seemed out of context. He just didn’t seem like an animal person at all. I had no idea where he was going with this plan, but I started to squirm. What exactly was he getting at?
He continued, laying out the details of his vision point by point. “I propose that our zoo have a brand-new look. I suggest that we put our animals in non-traditional settings. We put the polar bears in the savanna and the lions on the ice flow. We put the monkeys in the grassland and the gazelles in the forest.” He posted a fresh image onto the PowerPoint display: a map of our zoo, with all the habitats laid out in full color. He gestured to the screen with enthusiasm. “The people are going to love it,” he exclaimed. “Surprises and novelty in every enclosure. No one will get bored with this, I guarantee it.”
So we talked it over, crunched a few numbers, pondered it for a couple of hours and took a vote. Much to my amazement, the proposal passed by a wide margin and the plan went into action.
We began our new enterprise in earnest. When the lions arrived (shipped in from South Africa), we put them in the polar bear enclosure, complete with faux icebergs and a salt water pond. When the polar bears arrived (exiled from shrinking ice flows in Canada), we put them in the grassland desert. We took similar measures with all the new arrivals: every animal was placed in a sexy new habitat, designed to appeal to the most jaded zoo lovers.
At first, the whole thing was kind of amusing. Everyone knew that there was something amiss, but it all seemed harmless and entertaining. On the grand opening tour, all the children laughed when they saw the animals in the wrong places. It was obvious even to them: lions don’t belong in the polar bear enclosure. Even little kids know that.
Unfortunately, things began to unravel almost from the outset. Not only did our zoo manager insist on his alien habitat program, he also proposed that each animal be fed an “alternative diet.” “People are bored with watching lions eat meat,” he told us. “They don’t want to see gorillas eating leaves. All that stuff is boring. Our customers want something different.”
And so we came up with a completely unique nutritional program for our animals. We gave the lions big servings of pastry and ice cream. We gave our giraffes and zebras double cheese burgers. We gave cookies to our avian predators. We invited McDonalds, KFC and Burger King to provide the food for the entire facility. Our animals were confused of course, but our visitors seemed fascinated and throughly amused.
Ever the creative innovator, our manager added one more twist to his plan. “People want to see animals living a truly authentic human lifestyle,” he explained. And so, we added television sets, video game consoles, lounge chairs and couches to every enclosure–all designed for paws, hooves and claws. Incredibly, some of the animals took right to it. The primates seemed particularly fascinated; they worked the joysticks for hours, then collapsed into their chairs to watch TV, beers in hand.
It wasn’t long before the reviews started rolling in. Reporters from the local business journal hailed our zoo as an “innovative and much-needed transformation to the tired old zoo formula.” Corporate leaders praised our forward-thinking and bottom-line results. Inspired by the interest in our methods, we built a conference center and began offering week-long managment seminars for business professionals. Fired by our success, our zoo manager hit the talk show circuit, giving lectures to corporate managers about innovation. He shared his methods for creative management and joked about “thinking outside the cage.”
With all the press coverage, attendance at our zoo skyrocketed and people came from all over the country. We were packed with visitors. There were long lines, even on the weekdays. We increased ticket prices and still people came. Naturally, local businesses loved us. A new hotel went in across the street and new restaurants sprang up on every corner. Our budget was flush with cash; we were making money hand-over-fist. Our shareholders were ecstatic.
the vets come marching in
It was about this time that the health effects began to show. All across our zoo, animals were getting sick. Some became listless, some were fighting, others were showing signs of depression, mania and psychopathology. Rashes, digestive problems, diabetes and obesity were becoming commonplace. This was bad enough as it was, but even worse–from our manager’s point of view–were the financial consequences: attendance was dropping and revenue was falling. Our accountants warned us that we had to do something fast.
Desperate for a solution, we called in a group of veterinarians. They conducted a review of our procedures and issued a scathing report. They recommended that we return our animals to their natural habitats, diets and activity levels immediately.
Unfortunately, this recommendation was disregarded outright; our manager assailed it as “junk science” and “liberal clap-trap.” Board meetings became contentious, but the veterinarians consistently lost out. We were simply making too much money to change course now. It would be expensive (“cost prohibitive”) to return our animals to their normal habitats and diets. Our zoo and zoo-related consulting services were booked up for years in advance. The backlash was swift and merciless: animal health advocates were ridiculed as anti-captialist zealots.
Ultimately, after much discussion, our board reached a compromise. We decided to leave the animals in their mismatched habitats, but to treat them with powerful drugs to relieve their symptoms. Each night, after the tourists left, our veterinarians would enter the compound and inject the necessary substances into the animal’s bodies: tranquilizers, sedatives, amphetamines, SSRI’s, anti-anxiety drugs, lithium or Ritalin, whatever it took. This program of medication produced a whole host of disturbing side-effects, but behavior and appearance was normalized, at least for the time being.
Eventually, the hubub died down. The novelty of our zoo wore off and jaded spectators returned to their TVs. Most of our animals died or were placed in intensive vet care. A few survivors were shipped out to traditional zoos with conventional habitats.
As the years passesd, our town became a national laughing-stock and the butt of a thousand jokes. We became known as “The town that put the polar bears in the desert.” Across the country, people had a good laugh at our expense. John Stewart, Letterman, Leno and a thousand pundits ridiculed our stupidity.
As for our zoo manager, he eventually resigned and took on a new post as a health policy advisor to the Bush administration, where he was hailed by the press secretary as “a courageous, forward-thinking candidate.” At his first press conference, he thanked the president for the appointment and announced, “I have a visionary new plan for protecting and improving the health of all Americans…”