08.06.17: Long day


An orangutan looks like he’s had a long day at the Columbus Zoo, Powell, Ohio. 


Technical information

May 28, 2005,
1:24 p.m.

40°9’23” N, 83°7'20" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 (300mm)


1/320th second


I get mixed feelings whenever I see an orangutan or a gorilla in a zoo.

It’s great to be able to view such impressive animals, especially when they are active — running, swinging and behaving as they do in the wild.

But it’s sad to watch if the animal seems depressed from years of captivity.

This orangutan at the Columbus Zoo was resting when I shot this photo. It’s expression could be interpreted as boredom, or maybe fatigue. But I’ve seen the same expression on resting orangutans in photos and videos of them in the wild.

The orangutan area at the Columbus Zoo, like most animal areas in modern zoos, is designed to motivate normal (i.e., non captive) behavior by the orangutans, 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. And the orangutans use all the features. It’s common to see them climbing and swinging while chasing each other.

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.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.