Saturday, May 1, 2010


found here. 

Z is for Zoo.
In this case, the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
Mr. Magpie and I visited the Stone Zoo this past weekend, mostly so that he could see his beloved big cats, but we loved visiting all the animals, like this wonderful gibbon.  She was a showoff and a flirt, and she played peekaboo around a corner with a delighted little boy.
I have a hard time with zoos; it's never easy to see animals in cages and enclosures.  On the other hand, zoos like this one do the important work of conservation and education.  For example, the Stone Zoo is part of Zoo New England, and they are involved in the Blanding's turtle research and monitoring project at Great Meadows in Concord, Massachusetts.  Anyone who has read my blog knows how much I love Great Meadows--and the turtles we meet there.  Blandings are a threatened species that have been on the decline since the 1970's.  
I also love talking with the folks who work at zoos.  As I watched these beautiful markhors, a man who works at Stone Zoo cut several large branches from nearby trees and fed them to the markhors.  It was incredible to watch these endangered wild goats from India and Afghanistan climb nimbly down the cliff to eat their afternoon snack.  Only 2,000 to 4,000 markhors still exist in the wild, and they are still being hunted for food and for their horns.  Very soon the only markhors left will be in zoos like this one.

The Stone Zoo has cougars, jaguars, and snow leopards.  The jaguars and snow leopards were sleeping, like most cats in the afternoon, but this one glorious cougar was up and about.  In the wild, cougars maintain territorial ranges of up to 100 miles, so it is painful to see them in enclosures.  

I got to spend quite a bit of time with this black-necked crane, who was very social and quite friendly, posing for photos and spending a lot of time examining the crazy woman who wouldn't stop talking and and snapping pictures and making bird noises.
For this, my last photo of my last alphabet post, I thought I'd share this shot I took of a Mexican gray wolf (yes, I was this close to her, but I took the photo through a glass wall).  Like many of the animals at the Stone Zoo, Mexican grey wolves were hunted nearly to extinction.  By the 1950's there were only a handful left in the wild.  The Stone Zoo is involved in efforts to reintroduce  these wolves to remote parts of the American Southwest.   

Whenever I read stories about animals like the Mexican gray wolves or markhors or the countless other species on the verge of extinction, I marvel at how little care or understanding we humans have shown our fellow creatures.  I live in a part of New England that is already densely populated by humans, yet each day I see new strip malls and developments flying up.  Why don't we see that when a forest is gone, it is gone?  When a wolf or a songbird or a snake or a turtle disappears from the planet, we are all left diminished by its absence.  I've always found it funny that people who fight for the conservation of animals and wilderness and the health of the planet are dismissed by those builders of shopping malls and subdivisions as tree huggers, as if that is a derogatory term.  Of course we are tree huggers!  How can we not be?   

Thanks for all your lovely comments and thoughts about the alphabet posts.  I have been less than regular with posting and commenting lately, and you are patient and good to put up with me.  


  1. It's 'Z' already?!
    Certainly has been a lovely journey from 'A' Gigi! When I was a teen I wanted to get a job in the zoo, feeding the animals seemed like a joyful task...later, I found out that they had to clean all the 'sh@t' as well! I completely changed mind mind right there & then!
    ~Lovely weekend you & hubby!

  2. Oh I know it's hard to see them enclosed but thank goodness they are being saved. It's a double edged sword. It is extraordinarily tragic what we are doing to the animals of this world, it breaks my heart. I mean with due care and consideration we can all co-exist happily....please.

    hugs DJ


  3. I didn't get to my reading last night as I'd thought so I am savouring you this early Saturday morning. I have LOVED your alphabet posts (still have to go back and read the Y one) - they have been eloquent, thought provoking and touching. And I even got an Apple from the Teacher at the beginning ;-)
    Ah Gigi, I hate going to zoos for the same reason. I feel extreme sadness about seeing animals in cages. I have been dubbed the 'mean Mummy' as well because I just can't take my kids to the roving circuses that come through town because of those poor animals tied up around the camp sites. I have explained why and PROMISED the Cirque du Soleil as soon as it comes back to Toulouse...
    Now what will you do for an Encore dearie?

  4. I agree with you about Zoo's of course, Gigi. It's a conundrum isn't it? When the children were younger I avoided going, but Dublin Zoo has been having a complete make-over over the last decade or more and it's not the place I remember visiting as a child. The way I see it, from a conservation point of view Zoo's are necessary, and I would rather support it financially to enable them to do it to the best of their abilities. In this modern day I believe there is enough knowledge and good intentions to make them the best they can be.

    But I do still sometimes find it upsetting. The gorillas break my heart...

  5. One day we will be the only species left and finally there will be none! A lot of good strip malls will be then!!

  6. Sorry, forgot to say I love your photos. I have never seen a cougar before, he is very regal and the black necked crane is a trick, I do love his expression.

  7. GiGi, Happy May 1st to you Dear. Today's the Derby at 4PM.

    I really enjoyed this trip to your Zoo. I hate to say it but, I haven't been to a Zoo in ten years. I moved to Maine. Your photo's and information were very interesting. Thanks,

  8. As always a thoughtful post Gigi. I learnt a few things today as I didn't know what a gibbon was and I am glad there was a glass wall when you took that one photo, sort of took my breath away until I read that. So sorry to see the end of the alphabet but I am sure you will come up with something equally creative. XO

  9. beautiful shots and thoughts. i feel much like you but also understand the need to save some of this beauty that is disappearing from the earth.

  10. yes, we are are "diminished" as a species when we cut down more trees and push other creatures to extinction. there isn't yet an understanding of how we treat one another as humans and how we treat the natural world. seems we think of them as two separate issues but I think more compassion for one another creates compassion for the earth and her ihabitants.

  11. ...zoos certainly seem to have improved in my lifetime...they now promote themselves as educational and the habitats at least attempt to be similar to the natural habitat even if it makes for poorer viewing...all in all it is sad but an improvement...Zoos certainly do make for good photo ops too:) Great shots Gigi!

  12. Dear Gigi,
    I, too, am not a great lover of Zoo's but, there are some that have great expanses of land for them to roam in.Over here, many stately homes have animals that roam wild and the visitors drive through the grounds. The monkeys often damage many cars and pull the rubber off of the windscreen wipers and the trim around the windows !! I think that it is better than them being in cages.... and, at least they are helping to stop some species from becoming extinct.
    It's the same with circuses. I hate circuses but, like Ange, give me Cirque du Soleil without the animals, anytime. XXXX

  13. I know what you mean - I have huge issues with zoo's. But, yes, they are helping to preserve and educate - sometimes. We have a terrible zoo here, and I have already told my mother in law, that she is never to take my daughter to it. She takes all the other kids, but not mine.

  14. Me too, I have "issues" with zoos... I just have a really hard time seeing animals in captivity, our of their natural habitats, etc. Our neighbors have a pair of rabbits in a hutch. I can see them from our kitchen window--just this breaks my heart--seeing them hop around, no place to go, all caged up. But these animals you show are beautiful Gigi. It has been such fun following along with your alphabet post. Thank you for the fun! Happy Weekend :o) ((HUGS))

  15. Hmm. Zoos are just something I can't ever visit. We used to have one in Stanley Park, here in Vancouver, and it was just diabolical.
    This is a really great post, Gigi. Some people just don't seem to understand that "when a forest is gone, it's gone". So sad.

  16. love that flamingo pic!! brilliant

  17. now you know your abc's. great series.

  18. What a great project...I can't believe you are done with it. I know how you feel about zoos...I love animals and I want them to live their best lives. But, I do think that they get excellent treatment in most major zoos and I know how much we have used the zoo to educate our children when they were small. Plus, I think the benefits from studying these creatures is worth it. I still twinge a bit when I see those cages.


  19. It has been a wonderful journey reading your A-Z posts (especially with all the gorgeous photos, like the ones above!). Have a beautiful day, Gigi! xxoo :)

  20. Gigi ~

    We are so very similar in many ways ~ zoos always make me sad, but then I agree that they are a safe haven for the endangered and an educational resource for many. And yes, we all need to realize that when a forest is removed for the insane purpose of another chain of big box retail, more suburbian sprawl, and/or highways, many more sweet, innocent gifts of nature are left without homes. We, the humans, should learn to co-exist with nature and not feel it is our ultimate right to take whatever is there and not look back. Again, I am very sickened and my stomach aches at the deep damage caused by the oil spill in the panhandle. My goodness, what have we done to our planet?!?!
    Thinking of you and wishing you were near so we could chop up delicious organic food and try our best to save the world!

  21. well, it seems many of us have this complicated relationship with zoos. as a lover of animals, i've always thrilled in visiting these beautiful creatures. yet, even as a child (especially as a child, when exhibit spaces were much too small, enclosed, and unnatural to the species), a part of me has always been pained to see these majestic animals locked up. the older i get, the more complicated my feelings become. i recognize and am so appreciative for the conservation work that many of the good zoos provide, for species who have unfortunately been forced out of natural environments by human hands. but, at the same time, i now question the practices of some zoos.... whether they are treating animals in the best interest of the animal or whether the zoo is catering to human entertainment and profit. i know it varies widely from zoo to zoo. it is definitely important to research how zoos acquire animals, what becomes of animals as they grow older, etc.
    i'm always amazed at how many people underestimate both the intelligence and emotional capacity of animals... and how important they all are to our earth. so, it is so nice to see these comments from all of these caring people!
    i do still visit zoos, but also contribute to smaller field organizations who are out there trying to conserve the natural environments for animals.

    beautiful post and pictures, as always!


  22. Gigi, I am a tree hugger as well. Perhaps that is why I live in the Pacific Northwest where the woods and the rivers are minutes away. I can't imagine a world without nature in it.
    Sad to see that you are at the end of the alphabet. This was a fun series. And informative.

  23. You know, I always hated zoos. They made me so sad somehow. Now, as an adult I know about their conservation and protection efforts and I appreciate them. But, still, like you I get sad to see those beautiful animals all caged up. The pacing cats especially make me sad.

  24. I am a tree hugger....figuratively, and literally (I hug them all the time)...and proud of it!
    I so know what you mean, and I feel the same frustrations over development vs conservation, not to mention the conflicting feelings over zoos...they have a useful purpose but it is so hard to see animals in captivity. I saw two elephants in a zoo in France last summer that completely broke my heart. But, hopefully, people will connect to these animals when they visit zoos and will feel how important it is to respect and protect the natural world.


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