Sunday, August 24, 2014

The species imbalance in Dublin zoo

Marilyn and I paid a visit to Dublin zoo recently. This is a well organised place with friendly staff, much improved enclosures emphasising spaciousness (my last visit was some years ago), excellent, reasonably priced cafes and lots of clean, accessible toilets.

The animals themselves were, of course, the main attraction. My personal favourites are the big cats and I was gratified to see a new arrival there in the form of a lion cub. Three tigers, two females and a male, were magnificent. One of the she-cats let the big boy know that his attentions were not welcome (she was not, apparently, in the mood) by baring her fangs and sending a visceraly terrifying growl in his direction.

The only grating part of the experience was the glaring overabundance in the members of one particular species on the day we were there. According to its website, when all the inmates are added up, they amount to around 400 individuals. This includes everything from the Pantheras leo, the lions, through the Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) to the rose tarantula (Grammostola rosa).

On the other hand, there must have been very many thousands of the species Homo sapiens in attendance. During the course of a year, over one million of this biped type take it upon themselves to go to Dublin zoo to look at the other, captive animals. I like to think that the more permanent occupants get at least some stimulation from observing the observers.

But the numbers are grossly imbalanced, whatever way one looks at it. Three tigers, no matter how well looked after, placed in the context of so many humans is very sad indeed. And this feeling is not assuaged by the thought that Dublin zoo is not their natural habitat because, in the wild, many of these superb examples of the process of evolution are threatened with nothing short of extinction.

The incredible explosion of the human population on the planet is in the published data and one can debate the sustainability or otherwise of this situation, the theories of Malthus and the possible culpability of mankind in the Global Warming phenomenon, but the juxtaposition of human visitors with the pathetically few members of a small number of other species that can be seen in Dublin zoo brings home better than anything else the terrible population imbalance that has taken place on earth.