Tag Archives: monkey in a cage

A short essay: “Animal Illustrations and Proper Zoo-keeping”

9 Aug

This afternoon I did a goodly amount of drawing at the library; today I have sketched naught but wild animals using several heavy zoological volumes for visual reference. Much as I love dragons, gryphons and the like, “real” animals are quite an enjoyable thing to depict in my opinion. Perhaps I ought to expand my dreams of illustrating fantasy novels and children’s literature to include books filled with facts about plants and animals. What sparkling unicorn could outdo the indisputable fact that we have giant pandas, and Nile crocodiles, and massive Bengal tigers? No matter what lovely qualities the imaginary possess, they remain stories.

From a young age I wanted to be a zookeeper. Despite the fact that I have moved on from that aspiration as a career, I retain to this day my fascination with the living things of the world. My interests have not so much shifted as expanded from the animal kingdom to the crafts of creative writing and illustration, and I now wonder if I might apply one to the other. My primary passion is writing fictional stories, but a freelancing gig could well set me up with the opportunity to write articles on Komodo dragons or great blue herons. The same goes for sketching – imagine being able to recreate the box jellyfish on paper! My art instructor once gave me some very interesting advice: To draw from memory or imagination is to create a cartoonish or humorous image; likewise, putting pencil to paper whilst observing a model or still image is to add realism.

With that in mind, perhaps I could travel great distances and snap photographs of giraffes, of octopi, of South American macaws. Not only would we have captured the visual essence of these creatures: I could use the very shots as an opportunity to hone my drawing skills. While I might do the same at a zoological park, I am currently of a dual opinion on such places: a conservational program and a “monkey in a cage” one are two very different things.

Humanity is responsible for much extinction, in the wild if not everywhere, and for many more “endangered” statuses. To right the wrongs of other members of our own species, many people have set up laws against hunting rare creatures such as the elusive mountain gorilla. Sadly, far too many poachers ignore these rules and murder the vanishing animals for heartless and selfish means. It is then that good souls such as Dr. Jane Goodall set up places to breed and thus replenish animals. Zoos which house animals temporarily in order to help the overall species are in my favor, as are “display” zoos that give animals a healthy and enjoyable permanent home. The North Carolina Zooloigical Society is an excellent example of humane treatment and good conditions. A handful of years ago they opened a plain at their Asheboro facility in which African elephants now graze and socialize. The term “vast” would be an understatement here. The rhinoceros exhibit nearby is a similar rolling field, and I read recently that their polar bear exhibit is being remodeled to encompass several times its already considerable size. A good zoo, as I see it, worries not about pleasing the guests with as many beasts as possible, but considers the animal life to be a priority. I’d rather watch a locally common bullfrog rejoice in a large swamp pool than see several exotic Bornean orangutans fight for food in what might be called a jail cell.