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Three stages of life when visiting zoos.

1. The kid – curious, unaware, naive.

Seeing exotic animals for the first time and not knowing what they are or where they’re from. Only having seen or heard of the animals through pictures, descriptions, or videos. Wide-eyed, bewildered at their behaviors, their magnificence, their odd looks. The kid is really introduced to the wildlife at this stage. The wow factor is big.

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2. The young adult – cynical, somber, hesitant.

It’s different now. The kid has grown into a young adult. Seeing caged animals with limited mobility. Seeing their seclusion from other animals, unable to exercise their natural instincts in a wild habitat. Knowing they were taken away from free open space. Knowing that many will be in the same small area in the zoo one, two, three years from now. That kids will be tapping on the glass which echoes into their eardrums. Or that they’re being stared by thousands of unknown strangers.

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3. The parent – revitalized, bittersweet, hopelessly hopeful.

Taking your kids to the zoo and knowing that they will experience the same joys and wonders of your childhood zoo experiences. Knowing that they are intrigued by the sight of certain animals for the first time. Seeing the magical aura they exhibit, hearing the “wow Dad… look Mom… Wow!”

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Their joy brings you joy, but the fact remains that these animals’ freedoms are sacrificed at the expense of humans’ desire to understand and cultivate their curiosities.

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