Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Failure to Thrive
Ordinarily I try to stick to writing about Penny, but what kind of mommy blogger would I be if I didn't occasionally rant about something else? This week, Jamal, the baby giraffe at our zoo, died in his enclosure. He was 8 months old, and hadn't been growing, so the cause was determined to be "failure to thrive." When I read about it in the paper, my first response was shock, then sadness, then outrage. Why did this happen? Did they do everything they could? Why wasn't he growing at a normal rate? There will be a federal investigation into Jamal's death, which may or may not be conclusive.
I'm not an animal expert, so maybe I shouldn't criticize or point fingers. But I am a patron of the zoo. I have voted for initiatives to help fund projects and new enclosures for the animals. I'm glad I had the chance to see little Jamal this fall, and I'm sad that he's gone. His death is not helping me resolve my conflicting feelings about zoos. I'm not sure giraffes are suited for our climate, at least part of the year, so maybe we have no business turning them into attractions in the first place. I've never liked the concrete enclosure at our zoo, but is it realistic to demand a reproduction of an African savanna in the Rocky Mountains?
But in spite of all that, how does his mother feel? Does she miss him? As mammals, they must have bonded on some level, mother and baby. And what about this vague "failure to thrive" diagnosis? At first I didn't think it was a satisfactory answer. But then I started thinking about that really scary moment we had with Penny after she was born, when I thought she was nursing enough, but she wasn't, because my milk supply was practically nonexistent. I can see how the inability to grow properly could happen to anyone, even to giraffes.
I know animals die every day, in the wild, in captivity, in slaughterhouses across the country. Hell, I'm an omnivore, so I am responsible for the death of something, every day. But that doesn't mean I can't be sentimental about Jamal's death. That doesn't mean I can't question the circumstances or think more critically about how animals are treated.
Rest in peace, little guy. Thank you for giving me pause.