Three Zoos in Three Weeks and the truth about Santa

Zoos are problematic for me. I don’t really liked the idea of caged animals, it’s way too prescient of the cages we put around ourselves (both literal and metaphorical) and as the only locations to see these animals (That is until we colonise space – and or time – and perfect DNA replication and terraforming:  forget Planet of the Apes, I want planet of the Cheetah people and yes that is a Doctor Who – Survival reference).

In our attempt to replace the beaches of Wollongong, our family has invested in an annual ‘Friends of the Zoo’ pass enabling us with free entry to the zoos in Victoria for the next year. Starting with Harriet’s birthday trip to the Melbourne Zoo in December, and making the most of the xmas/new years holidays – we have been to the Werreebe Open Range Zoo (hence renamed the Paddock Zoo) and the Healsville Sanctuary.

My discomfort with the zoos stems from the clash between the Zoos as entertainment, education and preservation. Sure the design and care of the animals is much better than it once was but we are still talking about cages, and what exactly are we preserving the animals for (apart from the imagined Utopian re-population) if we continue to destroy habitats and crowd out the animals from the locations they have occupied and evolved within?

That said I have to say how much I enjoy taking the kids to Melbourne zoo, it is short car trip from out place in the burbs, it has great coffee and is an amazingly opportunity for the kids to see real animals that they would otherwise only see in the screen or in books. Listening to the keeper talk about the gorilla enclosure during our second trip was brilliant – much better than a TV documentary or wiki article. Harriet’s fascination with the wonderful butterfly house and Xavier’s unprompted comminucation about his fondness for the elephants make the trips even more valuable than just a place to visit.

The kids didn’t really seem to get as much out of the Healsville or Weribee visits – although they both loved the kids water play area at the Weribee zoo, and I really liked the platypus enclosure and Parrot/Birds of Prey show at Healsville – but I think we will revist both during the year as well as more trips to Melbourne.

I don’t enjoy Christmas much – but I am making an effort to get into the festive season as its important as a ‘family’ event, but our attempts this year to maintain the Santa mythos while distancing the Christianity failed dismally. Not only does H see through the (even if she is not fully cognizant of it) ‘Santa’ idea she maintains an ongoing fascination with “Baby Jesus”, who she informs us is a girl and is attended by the “Three Wise Camels”. I’m remined by Penny Arcade, of all places, that one lie is as bad as another.