Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
The Indianapolis Zoo this week broke ground on a $20 million orangutan exhibit. The mayor and governor were there to tout “the most innovative zoo exhibit in the entire world.”
Well, that’s certainly a low standard. And from what I hear about the project, it sounds like just another crass exploitation of wild animals for commercial gain, pitched to the public with hyperventilated (but dubious) claims of conservation and education.
The politicians and zoo officials waxed pathetic about how the project’s features — a 150-foot-tall “Beacon of Hope” tower for which “the orangutans themselves will flip on the light switch,” the ability for children and orangutans “to create a finger painting on a screen together” — will somehow help save the endangered species. They seemed to be especially jazzed that “the orangutans will be able to travel on an overhead cable system above the zoo completely unconstrained by cages or walls.”
Orangutans will be on the loose above a crowd of kids and their parents, strolling about distractedly with sodas, hot dogs and popcorn. What could possibly go wrong?
The most absurd claim made at Tuesday’s ceremony came from the zoo’s spokesman, Jon Glesing. “This exhibit is going to have a large array of areas where the orangutans can move around as if they are in the jungles of Sumatra, and we will be able to see them in their natural environment."
“Their natural environment?” Cables strung over concrete, cages and crowds, as part of an exhibit that’s squeezed between something called a “Desert Dome” and a roller coaster? In central Indiana? At a zoo?
Orangutans desperately need help, but surely they don’t need this.