Arimathea
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Nature
O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
Zoos
Bring the world to us
Friday, February 27, A.D. 2015
Red Pandas in Snowy Cincinnati

I hope that you are having a fruitful Clean Week.

Myself, I am already looking forward to Pascha and to spring. Indeed, the weather may make us reconsider the meaning of White Lent (typically used for Advent). It is too late to be this cold!

At least, the Cincinnati Zoo’s red pandas are enjoying themselves. Behold my brother’s favorite animals:

Enjoy the snow—and be thankful for it. It’s keeping your plants and bulbs insulated from the arctic air.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, February 27, Anno Domini 2015
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Monday, December 22, A.D. 2014
Happy Birthday, Colo!

I hope that you are having a fruitful Advent season, and I wish my fellow old calendar travellers a blessed feast of the Theotokos’ Conception today.

It is also Colo’s fifty-eighth birthday! Read about the celebration on the Columbus Zoo site. Colo was the first gorilla born in captivity, and she is moreover the oldest gorilla in the world. I was able to see her back in September when I visited the Columbus Zoo with family. Many years, Colo!

Posted by Joseph on Monday, December 22, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, March 13, A.D. 2014
Cat Fishing

I am quite fond of fishing cats. I have played “hide and stalk” with a curious pal at the Cincinnati Zoo’s fishing cat exhibit on several occasions. By hide and stalk, I mean the peculiar human-feline interaction exhibited well by the famous “Stalking Cat”:

People have “connections” with their domestic pets all the time, and these mirthful moments more than justify all those unpleasantries in sharing a home with a beast. However, when one has such an interaction with a wild animal, it is thrilling—and feels almost like magic. At least, that is how it seems to me. So, I like fishing cats. The National Zoo in D.C. has a nice exhibit for fishing cats in its Asia Trail section where I have spent a bit of time, though I was never able to entice the cats into a game—not even the kittens born over the last few years. Still, they are fun to watch—especially since the National Zoo keeps live fish in their habitat for munchies. Kudos to the Smithsonian for resisting PETA-esque stupidity!

Last year, the National Zoo shared a video of mother Electra’s fishing techniques in front of her hopefully copycatting kitten Wasabi:

)

Goldfish—always there to take one for another team.

Wasabi’s father Lek, by the way, came from the Cincinnati Zoo, where he was born.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 13, Anno Domini 2014
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Monday, November 21, A.D. 2011
Biblical Zoo

Given my love of all God’s critters—well, minus cockroaches, mosquitoes, and houseflies—I thought that it would be good to visit Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo while in Israel. There is so much to do in the Holy Land that I wondered if it was worth visiting a zoo, given time restraints. However, I have visited zoos in Canada, Russia, Austria, France, Britain, and Germany; I simply like zoos. Moreover, Jerusalem’s zoo focuses on fauna mentioned in the scriptures. And it has an ark!

Posted by Joseph on Monday, November 21, Anno Domini 2011
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Friday, August 14, A.D. 2009
Saint Louis Zoo

My main reason for going to Saint Louis was to visit the famous Saint Louis Zoo. College friends from Saint Louis always mentioned how great the zoo was. I have also frequently encountered people and articles that mention San Diego, Cincinnati, and Saint Louis as the best zoos in the country, if not the world. The order of honor changes depending on the person, but as I have now visited all three zoos (and dozens of others throughout the world), as well as San Diego’s Wild Animal Park extension, I feel confident in my ability to rank them.

Clearly, San Diego Zoo and its sister Wild Animal Park are the greatest zoological complex that I have seen. Without the Wild Animal Park, San Diego would still probably be the best, though the Wild Animal Park decisively tips the scale. For second place, I think that both Cincinnati and Saint Louis could justly argue. They both have gorgeous grounds, they both have an extensive collection of rare and endangered animals, and they both have always been on the pioneering edge of captive animal habitat design. Saint Louis is free, but Cincinnati is the “sexier” zoo with more success in breeding animals in danger of extinction. As a Cincinnatian and a member of the Cincinnati Zoo, I would put my zoo in the second slot, but I would not hold a Saint Louisian in contempt if he offered the same honor to his own.

It is easier to assign where each zoo excels beyond all others. San Diego has the best panda, koala, and tree kangaroo exhibits. Its setting in Balboa Park makes it the best situated. Saint Louis’ Forest Park is lovely, but it is not as cool as Balboa Park, which may be the best urban park in the country. Cincinnati’s Zoo is poorly situated; it is the nation’s second oldest zoo, and the city built up around it. I would like for Cincinnati to develop an annex in Butler or Warren County that would serve as an extension like San Diego’s Wild Animal Park. For the main privation at the Cincinnati Zoo is its small and compact size. It does a lot with the little that it has, however.

San Diego also has a pleasant sky ride. Kings Island in Cincinnati used to offer such a ride but it closed down in the 1970’s, I believe. Yet, as I said before, it’s San Diego’s Wild Animal Park that is astounding. The safari train, the desert hills, and the giraffe encounters are unrivaled. Furthermore, the Lion Camp is awesome, and I mean that literally.

Cincinnati has the best children’s zoo, the best insect zoo, and the best primate exhibits overall, though both other zoos have excellent great ape enclosures. I would also add that Cincinnati features the best wild cat exhibits overall—though San Diego’s Lion Camp is amazing and Saint Louis’ Big Cat Country is impressive, too. Still, Cincinnati’s cat canyons and the Cat House put it first in this category. Cincinnati’s manatee house is as good as an aquarium’s. Cincinnati and San Diego compete for the rhinoceros and polar bear exhibits. I think that it holds its own with the birds, as well.

Saint Louis Zoo is an all around fabulous zoo, but some of its exhibits are unmatched. Its penguin house is shockingly cool, figuratively and literally. It actually has snow in it, and there is no glass between you and the penguins. Before I visited Saint Louis, I thought that San Diego’s Sea World had the best penguin exhibit, but it falls short of the experience of actually entering into antarctic weather yourself. Saint Louis also has the best hippopotamus exhibit, and the surrounding River’s Edge habitat is excellent. The River’s Edge Asian elephant habitat is one of the best that I have seen, though Portland’s (Oregon) exhibit is probably better. The National Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo are building top notch facilities, but the D.C. zoo’s exhibit is currently under construction and I have never visited L.A.‘s zoo. I would also state that Saint Louis has antelope exhibits on par with San Diego. Moreover, the stingray pool is a treat; I’ve only seen such exhibits at aquariums and at Sea World before.

It is definitely worth your while to travel to Saint Louis to see the zoo. It is free, though certain parts of the zoo charge a minimal fee. You may visit these places in the first hour of the zoo’s day for free (between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM during the summer), which include the children’s zoo, the stingray petting pool, and the rides. Thus, I recommend arriving at the zoo a few minutes before it opens. This will also allow you to park on the streets of Forest Park without any trouble, as the zoo’s parking lot charges a steep price. We arrived at 8:00 AM during the week, and we were able to park closer to the (north) entrance than the cars in the zoo’s parking lot—practically across the street from the doors. If you arrive later, these free street spaces fill up. Yet, the art museum’s massive parking lot is just a short walk up the hill from the zoo. If you cannot find street parking, you may park in the art museum lot. All of the parking lots in Forest Park seem to be public, open, and free except for the small zoo lot.

If you park close to the zoo, you may wish to picnic in Forest Park instead of spending money at the zoo. We packed lunches, but we ended up purchasing some cheese fries, anyway. It was the only money that we spent at the zoo (save for the gift shop); so it was still a good deal.

We spent the whole day at the zoo and we did not get to see everything. If you have the time, I would advise going twice. It’s free!

Posted by Joseph on Friday, August 14, Anno Domini 2009
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Monday, July 6, A.D. 2009
Tigress and Cubs

My sister and I spent the fourth at the Cincinnati Zoo, which was my fifth time at the zoo this year. We went to see the new Malaysian tiger cubs, which were adorable and thankfully quite active. You may watch some footage of the family below.

The mother is stunningly beautiful. Tigers may be dangerous creatures, but they are gloriously so. The world will be less without them.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, July 6, Anno Domini 2009
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Monday, January 5, A.D. 2009
Giving Vegetarians a Bad Name

It is bad when insinuations of vegetarianism are enough to ruin a political campaign . . . In Montana last fall, Democrats accused the Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown of being a vegetarian, which Mr. Brown vigorously denied. According to the Billings Gazette:

“I am not and have never been a vegetarian,” Brown said.

“I am disgusted by the baseless allegation that I am a vegetarian and that my personal eating habits should somehow be construed as opposed to the economic interests of Montana’s livestock industry.” . . .

“If this was a simple misunderstanding, that would be one thing, but this is clearly an attempt by Gov. Schweitzer and his political hacks to discredit me amongst livestock producers, and it’s beyond offensive,” Brown said.

Well, Roy Brown lost. False accusations tanked his candidacy. Just imagine what it must be like for those of us who truly are vegetarians. We can only pray that we can keep to “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” environs lest we be outed. Then, the haters come knocking . . .

However, certain extremist animal rights whackjobs want to ruin our image in the public’s mind even more. You may know of P.E.T.A. through their antics and their whorish celebrity supporters. Being the incentive to get Pamela Anderson to agree to a comedy roast was probably the only good deed ever accomplished by those insane people. Now, P.E.T.A. wants everyone to refer to fish as “sea kittens” so that people will become more sensitized to the plight of our piscine neighbors.

Anyway, I may have found a group even more deluded than P.E.T.A. As far as I know, P.E.T.A. has no problem with your having dogs and cats as pets, as long as you treat them humanely. As far as that goes, I entirely agree with P.E.T.A. In contrast, Animal Freedom condemns pethood as a form of animal bondage. “Animal dependency” is unethical exploitation. The goldfish bowl is an instrument of torture. Pet owners are psychologically disturbed. Though not dealing with pets, I learnt that angler fishing is a form of rape:

With their fishing rod, a type of extended penis; men wait by the side of the pond until a fish takes their seductive bait. The animal is hooked, reeled in, sometimes admired for a minute and then measured, shortly thereafter to be released again. Multiple contacts at the waterfront, you might say. And afterwards the fishermen brag to each other about how big it was and what a struggle it was to reel it in.

And the fish? The fish (if it survives) swims away wounded, to chance becoming another fisherman’s victim.

The fisherman is another one of those people who has not freed himself from the wish for confirmation. He angles for compliments. Had he been given enough love and attention as a child, he would feel no need to experience time and again if the fishes would bite. Not for nothing is fishing an activity mainly carried out by mischievous children and boring old men. Which is precisely the category that doesn’t score well with women. However, mothers play a dual role in this. They hate being used by men and they hate that men fish. But still they would rather see their men spending their time on the waterfront and directing their energies towards fishes than towards chasing women.

I wonder what my fisher-mother would say . . .

Animal Freedom’s writings are fascinating. I enjoy reading them in the same way that I find Mormon catechetical works to be quite fun. It is like fantasy literature—but really believed!

As one who cares for animal welfare—and as a vegetarian—I probably agree with the Animal Freedom folks far more than the average omnivorous Joe. However, I believe in a hierarchy of creatures, with man at the top—at least among Earthlings (or Terrans, for you weirdo sci.fi. geeks). As such, I do not mind the human exploitation of nature—as long as such exploitation respects nature. That is a vague guideline, but I basically mean that we can reap benefits from the land and from its creatures as long as we are responsible and ethical in our relations with them by ensuring their continued health and existence. In other words, we should not drive species to extinction through our exploitation. We should be mindful of natural resources—not only for selfish reasons, for the sake of calculated future goods, but also out of respect for natural things’ inherent worth. When species vanish due to our actions (we cannot answer for natural extinctions), when beautiful places turn ugly from callous development, when men subject a creature to treatment that does not respect the dignity fitting to it, then the world is worse from human action. Moreover, we should not engage in actions that render our souls ugly or perverse, as animal cruelty definitely does so. Rather, as with our fellow human beings, we should aim for the flourishing of all.

I do not think that having pets—at least animals who have been domesticated since the dawn of history—violates the aforementioned principles. Dogs have co-evolved with human beings for so long, we belong together. To use language that must be familiar to the Animal Freedom folks, pets celebrate and encourage interspecies understanding, love, and tolerance. Why would we want a homospecist society when we could benefit from diversity?

Some “animal rights” folks find zoos to be no better than cheap circus-style exploitation. However, zoos are among the conservation movement’s most effective instruments. They instruct people about the natural world and cause them to care about conservation efforts. Just think how many people donate to and become members of the World Wildlife Fund because they fell in love with wildlife at their not so wild city zoo. Imagine how many write to elected officials with regard to environmental policy because of their experience in zoos. Furthermore, for the last several decades, zoos have also been instrumental in breeding and reintroduction programs that save endangered species. The world is a much better place today because of zoos.

So, note that not all vegetarians are kooks. Well, you might think that I am a kook, as well, but I assure you that somewhere, out there, live unkooky vegetarians with whom you might someday share a train ride or a moment of leisure on a park bench. Do not be afraid. They do not believe in eating you.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 5, Anno Domini 2009
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