An Undeserved Life Sentence

When I was a young boy in New York City, my grandparents often took me to the Bronx Zoo, which was convenient to where both they and my parents lived. I was introduced to a whole world of wild animals, from penguins and seals to elephants and lions and other creatures as well. On the wall of the building that housed apes and chimpanzees was a mirror under which was the caption “ This is the most dangerous animal in the world.” I looked and saw my own reflection.

At the time, I was seven or eight years old, and the thought that I was ‘dangerous’ or belonged to a species that was, didn’t occur to me, though the novelty of the mirror made an impression and planted a seed that, over the years, has been nurtured by experience.

After all, animals never behave in ways that are all too common for us humans. They never declare war on each other or create conflicts over religion or politics. They do not capture prisoners and execute them. They do not hunt other animals for trophies, nor do they systematically exterminate other species. When they kill, it’s for food or to protect their offspring, their habitat, and themselves.

The irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone that, when a human does something brutal, another human will inevitably say “ he acted like an animal,” but based on what we do to our own kind as well as other animals, the earth’s really brutal creatures are people.

For example, no animal would capture another animal and confine it to a cage or behind a fence or in an enclosure, depriving it of its freedom and in effect sentencing it to life in prison where it’s on display at a roadside zoo that is portrayed as an animal rescue operation or a sanctuary. This is something only humans do, and they do it for profit, including right here in Maine.

These captive animals – including but not limited to tigers, lions, wallabies, lemurs and bobcats – are traded and sold, and also bred and taken away as babies from their animal parents so they become used to being handled by the public who often pay an exorbitant fee for the privilege.

Where do the cubs used in this way end up once they are too large or dangerous for exhibitors to make money? Susan Bass of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida says, “They are often sold to private owners or roadside zoos, and the tigers may be killed to supply the illegal trade in body parts. Cubs bred and born in this country often spend their entire lives in tiny, cement-floored cages in deplorable conditions.”

If you feel that it’s time for humans to act more humanely, there’s an opportunity to help make that happen. On Saturday, August 29, a peaceful protest will be held from 11 am – 2 pm outside the offices of Lone Wolf Media,10 South Cottage Road, South Portland, producers of Yankee Jungle. The TV program, which airs on Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet, focuses on “DEW Haven,” a roadside zoo in Mt. Vernon, Maine. The purpose is to urge Lone Wolf Media to stop producing programs that exploit animals as well as contribute to the crisis of exotic animal proliferation and abuse across the country.

It’s a chance to make the world a little kinder and a little less cruel.
It doesn’t come often enough for the creatures with whom we share the planet.

Don Loprieno

About Don Loprieno

Don Loprieno is a student of history and a published author.