Another Depressing Zoo


I had a dream last night I was on a long trek to get to this wild animal park type of place. It was like a big perfectly shaped mound in the middle of this nature scape with all these wild animals inside.

The Rio Zoo is not that place. It’s one of over a thousand “collections” of wild animals that looks slightly better or slightly worse than the zoos you’ve probably been to. The section with the parrots. The section with the monkeys. The reptiles and snakes. The big cats, in complete isolation from any of their kind. Pacing. And a swimming pool for the hippo.

A brief history of zoos:

3500 BCE more or less: Extremely rich people start collecting wild animals in menageries.

366 BCE: The first Roman games:

At one time, a bear and a bull, chained together, rolled in fierce combat across the sand … Four hundred bears were killed in a single day under Caligula … Under Nero, four hundred tigers fought with bulls and elephants. In a single day, at the dedication of the Colosseum by Titus, five thousand animals perished. Under Trajan … lions, tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami [sic], giraffes, bulls, stags, even crocodiles and serpents were employed to give novelty to the spectacle …[9]

1500-something: Queen Elizabeth I is so fond of bear-baiting, she overrules a Parliamentary attempt to ban it.

1847 – The first modern zoo, the London Zoo in Regent’s Park, opens to the public. It was initially designated for “scientific study.”

1860 – The Central Park Zoo opens.

1865 – The US abolishes slavery.

1906 – The Bronx Zoo puts Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, on display. He shares a cage with the chimpanzees, and somehow does not die.  A real human being, in a cage, at a zoo.

1907 – Carl Hagenbeck opens the Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg, Germany. “His zoo was a radical departure from the layout of the zoo that had been established in 1828. It was the first zoo to use open enclosures surrounded by moats, rather than barred cages, to better approximate animals’ natural environments.

2000 – Kund Park Sanctuary opens to provide a home for bears confiscated from Pakistan bear-baiting rings. Floods in 2010 destroy the park and kill all but three of the bears.

2013 – Blackfish documentary exposes that Sea World is evil.

2014 – Court documents reveal Sea World dopes orca whales with benzodiazepine. Or as PETA puts it, “pumps these marine slaves full of psychotropic drugs in order to force them to perform stupid tricks.”

2014 – Julie visits the Rio Zoo. I’ve made excessive use of the HDR filter on Camera+ to lighten up an otherwise depressing and completely familiar set of images of wild animals in cages.



The Rio Zoo is located inside the Quinta de Boa Vista park, home to the acclaimed Museu Nacional, a circus and a bunch of street (park?) prostitutes.


Entry is R$6 (about $3).

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Photo with the zoo mascot: another dollar.

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Posing with the parrot pay phone: Free unless you want to make a call.


No cages around the palm trees. Ironically, a colony of formerly domesticated cats also roams free.


I remember field trips to the zoo when I was this age. So exciting!


A giraffe in a cage. See how they have long necks so they can reach up and bite leaves off the trees.


Look, an elephant.


At least he is trapped here instead of a bear-bating ring.


A wolf in a cage.


A primate, I forget which kind, in a cage with a little primate.


King of the jungle in a cage.


You can’t see it in the photo, but both of this leopard’s eyes are blood red and rotting out.


This tiger is also sick, but there’s a monkey in a nurse’s outfit looking after him.


Let’s take a picture!


Maybe in the future zoos will be places we can pose with over-sized plastic wild animal replicas.


Or they will be virtual zoos where we can watch NatGeo videos of actual animals doing their thing in actual nature. But for now, there’s American Chainsaw and Are You Tougher than a Boyscout?.





UPDATE: Authorities closed the Rio Zoo in January 2016 for poor conditions.