When I lived near Washington, D.C., I visited the National Zoo a number of times. Between 1989 and 1996, pandas came and went, babies were born, and they were hands-down the most exciting and popular exhibit in the entire zoo. I read that somewhere, at least. Because in my 7 years, I never, not even once, saw a damn panda.
I still joke that the highly-trained and seasoned Marketing Machine just threw that panda story out there as a lure. I was tricked into believing there were pandas in D.C. We were all tricked into believing there were pandas in D.C. The zoo's Marketing Machine convinced us all to show up with our Panda-Memorabilia-Cash clutched in our little hands. I was and still am a member of the World Wildlife Fund, I have adopted numerous manatees and donated money to the Save the Manatee Club, and I love saving stray puppies from the side of the road. This, I believe, made me destined to see a panda (even if only behind zoo barriers) before the species was completely destroyed by aforementioned cash-clutching human hands.
*SIGH* Never happened. Dammit.
The truth is that there have always been pandas at the National Zoo. Well, not always, but during the time I lived there, pandas were there, too. I am only upset that I could never catch sight of one, even out of the corner of my eye. The following news only upsets me more. No, it doesn't upset me. It flat out pisses me off.
TIME Magazine is featuring an article about how the recession is affecting the already-strained financial budgets for the nation's zoos and aquariums. A good point is made: Families across America are usually in some position to cut their food budget by buying less, sharing meals with neighbors to save on grocery costs, applying for food stamps, or walking into a soup kitchen if it's just impossible to pay for a meal. Is there such a program for an elephant? What about food stamps for klipspringers? Maybe soon we'll see lions on the corner of Zoo Parkway and Busch Drive, pacing wildly from stress and making their cubs hold signs that say, "Will Perform Circus Acts for Food!". Seriously, what the hell happens when there isn't a dime left for endangered animal breeding programs or feeding a white rhino his sixty pounds of leafy greens per day? What happens?
And if I wasn't already saddened enough by the fact that many gorgeous animals of our time will probably be the stuff of fairytales to my grandchildren, I was stupid enough to click on a link to the PETA website (I have always hated PETA, by the way). Here (yes, click HERE!) , PETA does nothing to help soften the blow that many zoo animals are about to be hit with. In fact, it seems to me that PETA is hoping to eliminate the country's population of zoo-goers altogether. Many zoos and aquariums rely on daily rate and membership revenue to help support their facilities, feed their animals, and provide extraordinary medical care for these animals. Especially because their budgets have been getting cut for years by the state. PETA can suck it!
I still hope that, one day, I will see a panda. With my own eyes. If it's only for a split second, from behind a glass divider or a roped-off moat, I will consider myself lucky. It breaks my heart to think that many popular zoo animals (usually the at-risk species) are not only losing their chances of survival in the wild, but now their chances of survival in captivity are being destroyed by that same cash-clutching hand.