My aunt took me to the Bronx Zoo when I was 12 years old, and I hated it because I felt sorry for the animals in cages. I can't watch those documentaries where the lions eat the gazelles, either.
Last week, I finally went back to the Bronx Zoo to see if the animals have it any better than they did when I was 12. Jim Doherty showed me around.
ANDY: "Do they miss freedom?"
DOHERTY: "Most of these animals were all born here, and ah, wild animals are not that free. Wild animals all live within certain boundaries and maybe there are more restrictions here but also life is much better for them here."
ANDY: "Most of the animals at the Bronx Zoo are not in cages anymore. You can hardly notice the barriers that keep the people and the animals apart. Some animals are basically nicer than others, like people."
DOHERTY: "Well,they are all different."
ANDY: "Some are nicer?"
DOHERTY: "Well, see, I like them all. My favorite animal, next to English bulldogs, are elephants."
Frank Leonard is the elephant's best friend at the Bronx Zoo.
ANDY: "Are these your elephants?"
LEONARD: "They certainly are."
ANDY: "These are yours?"
LEONARD: "Well, they belong to the Wildlife Conservation Society."
ANDY: "But you must think of them as yours."
LEONARD: "Of course, I can't take them home."
ANDY: "You like them?"
LEONARD: I love them. "Just as good as any dog... smarter."
ANDY: "Smarter than a dog?"
LEONARD: "Smarter than a dog. Smarter than a horse. But now you're going to hear from the dog and horse people."
ANDY: "You have to be careful not to get stepped on."
LEONARD: "I feel safer in there than I do on 42nd Street."
DOHERTY: "The snow leopards from the High Himalayas probably one of the rarest cats in the world. This is a cat that was killed for its skins to make fur coats."
ANDY: "Do you hate hunters?"
DOHERTY: "No, I don't hate hunters. I don't think a lot of trophy hunters. They are after the biggest and the best, the most handsome whatever."
ANDY: "The average deer hunter, you don't mind?"
DOHERTY: "No. The average deer hunter who is going out hunting deer for venison, I have no problems with that at all."
ANDY: "A big favorite of the kids who come to the zoo are the seals. All sea lions are seals. Not all seals are sea lions...I think."
ANDY: "Have you ever seen a whale before?"
KID: "These aren't whales."
ANDY: "They aren't whales?"
ANDY: "I thought they were whales."
KIDS: "They're seals."
ANDY: "They look like whales."
KIDS: "They're seals."
Animal rights activists still hate zoos the way I did when I was 12, but the animalin the Bronx Zoo, anyway, seem pretty happy. I remember the story of the two philosophers looking into a lake. One looks down and says, "Those fish are happy."
The other says: "You, not being a fish, don't know whether they're happy or not."
The first guy says: "You, not being me, don't know whether I know whether they're happy or not."
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