04.19/At the zoo

Featured for April: Photos at the zoo

A zoo visit provides opportunities to photograph unusual animals, but getting quality photos is challenging. It's often more difficult for me to get quality photos at a zoo than it is in the wild.

It seems like it should be the other way around. After all, I know exactly where the animals are at a zoo. There are maps and signs. Can't miss 'em. Just walk up to the pen and start shooting.

Except there are often high fences to shoot through. Or glass walls, usually covered with scratches behind a coating of sticky fingerprints. And crowds of people. And the animals tend to seek shelter far from the viewing areas.

The best chance for success is to carry a long lens, spend time walking around the exhibits to find positions that provide clear line-of-sight to the animals and hope for some luck.

I enjoy visiting zoos. During the last few years my wife and I have visited zoos in Columbus and Toledo, Ohio, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

But a zoo visit also brings mixed feelings.

Most modern zoos are designed to motivate normal (i.e., non captive) behavior by the animals, part of an effort by zoos to provide enriched habitats for animals. There are structures to climb, ropes for swinging, open spaces for running or roaming. 

That’s much better than the small cages that housed zoo animals in past decades. 

But there are still walls and moats that restrict just how far the animals can roam. The have space, but not freedom.

Modern zoos foster wildlife and science education by providing the public with opportunities to learn about various animals and the care they require. They are also important in protecting and preserving endangered species and rehabilitating injured animals. And the move toward enriched habitats have greatly improved life for the animals. But the animals are still captive and often suffer from stress, boredom, and confinement caused by a life behind bars.

Thus the mixed feelings.

I add a new featured gallery the first of each month. The numbers in the gallery title represent the month and year it was featured. Last month’s featured gallery, with photos of Northern Cardinals, has been moved to my featured gallery archives. 

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