The Complex Emotions That Seeing Exotic Animals In New York Brings Out

The Complex Emotions That Seeing Exotic Animals In New York Brings Out

Knowledge versus captivation

When I heard what our assignment was for Biology Lab, the news split my heart in two. We were going to the Bronx Zoo to examine animal behavior, studying one animal like a real biologist would. On one hand, I was ecstatic to see the variety of animals that the zoo houses, but on the other hand, I was not looking forward to seeing all the sad animals, depressed by their captivity.

So today, I walked over to the Bronx Zoo, feeling the most bizarre mixture of anticipation and dread that I have ever experienced. I followed what looked like a thousand middle school children into the park, and then I bobbed and weaved through the throngs of people after the ticket gate so that I could do my observations. Looking for the nearest enclosure of animals, I found the Chilean Flamingos, or Phoenicopterus chilensis if you’re fancy. I picked out the flamingo that I emotionally resonated the most with and began recording my observations.

After about an hour of watching my new best friend drink water, scratch their back, stretch their legs, and look around, I explored the Bronx Zoo.

The first animals that I came upon were the sea lions. One female lion lay on top of some rocks sunbathing and the other three sea lions were swimming in circles around their pool. They looked beautiful, with their smooth brown fur and streamlined bodies gliding through the water like it was glass.

Every now and then the sea lion sunbathing on the rock would bark, eliciting a cacophony of imitations from the fifty or so children watching. Maybe I am projecting my own feelings onto that sea lion, but she looked annoyed and upset. I cannot imagine living in a 250 square foot pool with a few rocks, being fed every few hours, and getting yelled at by small children, but I do not believe that I would like it.

Despite these feelings though, I still loved getting to see sea lions just a short walk away from my dorm room. It is both entertaining and educational to have such a wide variety of animals from all over the world in one area. I love getting to see the animals that I spend hours studying in my biology class in the real world because seeing them in the pages of my textbook does these awesome creatures no justice. Seeing the beauty of life and thousands of years of evolution first hand is incomparable.

As I walked towards the exit with my friends, we passed through a building brimming with children, chaperones, and teachers. With our attention grabbed, we went inside to see what could be so enticing.

We came upon two large rhinoceroses in a room that cannot have been much larger than a classroom. One rhino lay down and the other stood up beside it, simply sitting and standing still in one of the loudest rooms in the whole zoo. I could hear kids screaming, as they do, and asking their adults why the rhinos were not doing anything. I looked at the rhinos and felt terrible.

They looked bored, and sad because they were kept inside such a small indoor enclosure with little inside it except for a little bit of hay on the ground. The rhinos themselves were a sight to behold because of they are 7,000-pound beasts with a horn bigger than most of the kids at the zoo.

Feeling both wonder and sorrow, I walked through a couple more exhibits and back to Fordham. I still cannot fully make up my mind on my opinions on zoos, but I believe that open air, outdoor enclosures are better than indoor ones. With an outdoor enclosure, the rhinos that I saw today could have gone outside when the temperature rises enough, and hopefully, they will have more room to roam around.

I believe that animal observation is imperative to our understanding of the world around us, but enclosing them in tiny exhibits for entertainment feels wrong. I feel that a happy compromise exists in the stunning documentaries Planet Earth and Planet Earth II, which are available on Netflix.

You get to experience the beauty of nature, without having to take the animals out of their natural habitat. This allows the animals to live the lives that they are naturally equipped to live, and it allows us, humans, to observe their behavior for both education and entertainment.

I still cannot definitively make up my mind on zoos, but all I want is fair treatment of the animals and for us to respect their lives.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

Popular Right Now

20 Of The Coolest Animal Species In The World

Animals that almost seem imaginary.

The world is full of amazing animals. So amazing, that narrowing them down to 20 felt nearly impossible. To determine who made the cut for this list, I used very important factors such as, cuteness and how much some of them looked like Pokémon . I know, very official. So here are some of the coolest animals in the world.

1. Pink Fairy Armadillo

The pink fairy armadillo is the smallest and cutest species of armadillo. It is on the list of threatened species and is found in the sandy plains, dunes, and grasslands of Argentina. The pink fairy armadillo is a nocturnal creature that survives mostly on insects and plants.

2. Okapi

The okapi is an animal native to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Although the stripes make many people believe okapi are related to zebra, they are actually closer to giraffe. Okapi are solitary creatures and come together to breed. They are herbivores, mostly eating leaves, grass, and other plants.

3. Glaucus Atlanticus or "the Blue Dragon"

These little dragon-like creatures are often only about a few inches long and can be found in the Indian Pacific Oceans. The blue dragon floats upside down in order to blend the blue side of them with the water, and the silver side with the surface of the ocean. This tiny dragon feeds on creatures like the man o' war and can even deliver a sting similar to it.

4. The Maned Wolf

The maned wolf is often found in the grasslands of south, central-west, and southeastern parts of Brazil. It is neither related to wolves nor foxes despite its appearance and name, but is actually closer to dogs. The maned wolf hunts alone and primarily eats both meat and plants (about 50% of its diet).

5. Fossa

The fossa is a carnivorous animal located in Madagascar. Despite having many traits similar to cats, it is more closely related to the Mongoose. The fossa is only found in forest habitats and can hunt in either daytime or night. Over 50 percent of its diet happens to be lemurs.

6. Japanese Spider Crab

As the name suggestions, the Japanese spider crab inhabits the waters surrounding Japan. In many parts of Japan, this crab can be considered a delicacy but can be considerably difficult to catch. The Japanese spider crab can grow to 12 feet long from claw to claw. There is only one sea creature-- amongst similar species (aka crustaceans)-- that beats the weight of a Japanese spider crab: the American Lobster.

7. Pacu Fish

Look closely at the teeth, do they look familiar? This fish is found in the waters of South America. This fish, while related to the piranha, can actually grow much larger. They can also be found in rivers like the Amazon and is an aid to the fishing industry. Unlike the piranha, pacu mostly only eat seeds and nuts, though can still create nasty injuries to other animals if need be.

8. Slow Loris

The slow loris is a nocturnal creature found in Southeast Asia. While very adorable, the loris's teeth are actually quite venomous. The toxin on their teeth can also be applied to fur through grooming to protect its babies from predators. Often times these creatures forage and spend time alone, although can on occasion be seen with other slow lorises. Apart from their toxic teeth, the slow lorises have another defense mechanism, in which they move nearly completely silently in order to prevent discovery.

9. Angora Rabbit

These cute, fluffy rabbits are among the hairiest breeds of rabbit of both wild and domestic types. These rabbits originated in Turkey although managed to spread throughout Europe and was even brought to the United States in the 20th century. These rabbits are often bred for their soft wool which can be made into clothing, and often get rid of their own coats every 3-4 months.

10. Axolotl

The axolotl or "Mexican salamander" (who looks like a Pokémon , if you ask me) is often spotted in lakes in various places around Mexico. These little salamanders are amphibious although often spend their adult lives strictly in the water. However, the population of these cute creatures is dwindling due to non-native predators and the continued urbanization of Mexico. The axolotl eats small worms, insects, and fish in order to survive.

11. Liger

The liger, however made up it sounds, is a real (and cute) animal created by a lion and a tiger mating. Ligers only seem to exist in captivity or zoos because the lion and tiger don't share the same habitat in the wild. Unfortunately, these animals don't live very long or are sterile despite being bigger than both the lion and the tiger. While these animals are cool and unique, they are not strictly natural or sustainable.

12. Bearded Vulture

I don't know about you all, but this vulture reminds me of a phoenix which was initially why I looked into the creature. These vultures inhabit a range of places from southern Europe to the Indian subcontinent, to Tibet. This vulture, like other vultures, typically eats dead animals, although it has been documented that the bearded vulture will attack live prey more often than other vultures.

13. Goblin Shark

This unusual shark is also known as a "living fossil" because they are the last representative of sharks that lived about 125 million years ago. It is a deep sea shark that can grow between 10-13 feet if not longer. The goblin shark has been caught accidentally in every major ocean. The goblin shark is not a fast swimmer and relies on ambushing its prey.

14. Red Panda

This cute, small panda lives in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. The red panda is rather small, only about the same size as most domestic cats. Its eating habits range from bamboo, to eggs, to insects, and several other small mammals. The red panda is primarily sedentary during the day and at night or in the morning does whatever hunting it needs to do.

15. Blobfish

This blobfish is, in a way, so ugly that it is cute (although reminds me of a certain Pokémon ) This fish lives in the deep waters of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. The blobfish has a density only sightly above that of water. The fish primarily hunts by just floating along and letting creatures wander into its mouth, rather than expending any energy.

16. Leaf Deer

The leaf deer is usually found in dense forests in the northwest region of Putao. The adult leaf deer only stands at about 20 inches high and the males and females are nearly identical except for an inch long horn on the males. It is called a leaf deer because hunters could wrap the deer in a single large leaf.

17. Tiger

While tigers are a more common animal than many others on this list, it is still one of the coolest animals in the world. Tigers are the largest of all cats and once ranged from Russia, to Turkey, to parts of Asia — almost all over the world. These animals are fierce, powerful creatures, although they are on the endangered species list.

18. Narwhals

Narwhals are a species of whale that live in the waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. The narwhal's diet changes depending on the time of year: in the spring the narwhal will eat cod, while in the winter the narwhal will eat flatfish. Narwhals can live up to 50 years and most frequently die of suffocation from being trapped under the ice.

19. Cheetah

Cheetahs, while more commonly heard of then some of the other animals on this list, are still incredibly cool. They often inhabit many parts of Africa and Iran. These amazing cats can reach up to 60 miles per hour in three seconds and use their tails to make quick and sudden turns. These amazing cats also have semi-retractable claws which helps with speed. The cheetah, however, doesn't have much besides speed to defend itself.

And finally....

20. Superb Bird of Paradise

This GIF demonstrates the mating dance used by male superb birds of paradise. Typically females reject about 20 mates before selecting one they want to mate with. They are often found in New Guinea although it is unsure just how many of these birds there are. As far as scientists know, the population has remained stable.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The Old Oak Tree

A short poem about returning to one's childhood home.


Looming over the burned-out house is an oak tree,

Hundreds of years old at least.

The smell of smoke is gone, but skeleton of the house remains,

A mere speck when compared to the tree.

Whose branches reach out to me like hands,

Begging for me to come closer.

I do.

I sit under the tree like I did when I was young.

The ground is damp from the rain,

I feel the sogginess soaking through my jeans.

I remain.

It is cooler under the branches,

A limitless amount of leaves shades me from the daylight.

I stay there. All day.

Staring at the charred remains of my childhood home.

I stay there until fog begins to form in the crisp night air,

Cold and sharp against my cheeks.

No longer able to withstand the cold, I take my leave looking back once more.

It's nice to know that even when I'm gone,

The old oak tree remains.

Related Content

Facebook Comments