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Chapter 10
Yet there will always be animals that seek to escape fromzoos. Animals that are kept in unsuitable enclosures are themost obvious example. Every animal has particular habitatneeds that must be met. If its enclosure is too sunny or toowet or too empty, if its perch is too high or too exposed, ifthe ground is too sandy, if there are too few branches tomake a nest, if the food trough is too low, if there is notenough mud to wallow in – and so many other ifs – then theanimal will not be at peace. It is not so much a question ofconstructing an imitation of conditions in the wild as of gettingto the essence of these conditions. Everything in an enclosuremust be just right – in other words, within the limits of theanimal's capacity to adapt. A plague upon bad zoos with badenclosures! They bring all zoos into disrepute.
Wild animals that are captured when they are fully matureare another example of escape-prone animals; often they aretoo set in their ways to reconstruct their subjective worlds andadapt to a new environment.
But even animals that were bred in zoos and have neverknown the wild, that are perfectly adapted to their enclosuresand feel no tension in the presence of humans, will havemoments of excitement that push them to seek to escape. Allliving things contain a measure of madness that moves them instrange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can besaving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it,no species would survive.
Whatever the reason for wanting to escape, sane or insane,zoo detractors should realize that animals don't escape tosomewhere but from something. Something within theirterritory has frightened them – the intrusion of an enemy, theassault of a dominant animal, a startling noise – and set off aflight reaction. The animal flees, or tries to. I was surprised toread at the Toronto Zoo – a very fine zoo, I might add – thatleopards can jump eighteen feet straight up. Our leopardenclosure in Pondicherry had a wall sixteen feet high at theback; I surmise that Rosie and Copycat never jumped out notbecause of constitutional weakness but simply because they hadno reason to. Animals that escape go from the known into theunknown – and if there is one thing an animal hates above allelse, it is the unknown. Escaping animals usually hide in thevery first place they find that gives them a sense of security,and they are dangerous only to those who happen to getbetween them and their reckoned safe spot.


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