Let’s go to the Zoo

I love animals, most of all birds, but I also believe that their only chance for continued survival is if humans either become extinct before all the animals are gone or we have such a massive change in our values, behaviour and consumption of the planet, that we wouldn’t recognise ourselves. I detest all torment and humiliation of animals, especially things such as Toro Jubilo which occurs annually in Medinaceli, Soria and the paranys which still occur in Valencia.

Each time man has interfered with nature he has cocked it up. Maybe there is some hope; see rewilding in Yellowstone which has had such an unexpected effect on the whole ecosystem. Appears logical that if you remove more whales from the food chain there will be plankton and therefore more fish more fish for us No? Studies now show the reverse is true! I still feel that these small scale projects are a drop in the ocean compared to the mass destruction that takes place every day on this planet that we rent.

When it comes to going to a Zoo I have mixed feelings, all that I have been to so far have some magnificent would-be terrifying animals sterilised and securely subjugated in cages that leave me with the same feeling as visiting my granddad in the old peoples home, a once powerful and awe-inspiring man, who in one word could bring tears to my eyes even as a teenager, reduced to sitting a piss stinking chair surrounded by quivering old dears. Knowing that his failing memory was causing him such distress and confusion, revealed in his more lucid moments. All dignity gone and earlier in my life the reason for my leaving home as I was unable to sit by and watch my young brother poke fun at this man with his whistles to simulate the hearing aid feedback or his other childish jokes at the expense of this man I had so much respect for, my little brother has since grown up to be a charming, kind and respectful young man, a shame my old granddad is not around anymore to be proud of him.

On Saturday this feeling was typified for me by man laughing at the pathetic huge beast of a Brown Bear as it wandered back and forth on a very well-trodden path aimlessly in front of the strengthened glass viewing shelter, I tried to imagine the glass not being there for a few minutes and see who would be laughing then. I also watched my own young kids as they shouted at the animals and instinctive poked things through the bars of the cages to attract the attention of the animals or attempted to try and feed the chickens bamboo leaves and wondered if we had always been like this or if this is just the result of a little kid growing up in a city who has almost no day to day contact with animals as sees them as something foreign or unknown to be poked and goaded, I will make sure that my two toddlers grow up to be respectful of animals at the very least.

Anyway our family excursion this Saturday was to the small, free Zoo in Guadalajara approximately 60 km from the centre of Madrid. As well as having some of the normal zoo animals it’s a rescue centre for birds of prey involved in accidents, some of which will never be able to leave due to the severity of their injuries, I did see one bird with almost a complete wing missing which looked as though even getting around the enclosure was a bit of an ordeal as it crashed into the fencing and flapped uncomfortable to watch to try and gain a perch.


Something that struck me was a cage with a label saying it was a previously used by one of Spain’s most celebrated naturalist the late Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente for a bear called Juanón it had since been moved to the zoo and reconstructed, it looked so tiny to me I couldn’t imagine a bear being confined to its bars, I didn’t see any animals inside this cage, not sure if they were hiding or if it was empty, but for sure it wasn’t being used any longer to hold bears. The bear cage at the zoo was at least ten time the size of that cage and I saw only two bears inside and some serious effort had been made by the zoo to make the inside of the cage look like a wild environment with a water feature and trees and some areas that the bears could play, but there is still no hiding that mindless walking back and forth boredom that one of the bear exhibited.

The grounds of the zoo were stunningly beautiful on this cool autumnal day, Image

the sun was shining and the sky bright blue.

The environment was safe and wild Image

and both of our children enjoyed themselves immensely running free, exploring and discovering.

There are several interesting and well equipped play areas where the kids can really let loose



I am not a completely self-righteous romantic and when it comes to the education of our kids I realise that growing up in Madrid it is not going to be easy for me to expose them regularly to wildlife at least in their younger years and that we will have to go to zoos and wildlife centres, read them books and stories.

I made a promise to myself years ago that I will only ever show photos of wild animal and birds in their natural habitat the images below were taken in Doñana Natural Park – Spain, birds and animals here are wild and free.