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.


*mary* said...

That is so sad. Poor little fella. And yes, I think his mother misses him. I had a mama cat once whose kitten was hit by a car and she mewled in the most haunting, sorrowful way as she searched for him. She was sobbing and grieving, in her kitty way. It was one of the most heart-wrenching things I have ever witnessed.

I have seen the giraffes at the zoo here showing affection to each other so I'm sure they feel the same way.

I'm also conflicted on the zoo situation. Ideally animals would all be in the wild in their natural habitat, but since they are being hunted and edged out I'm glad that zoos exist to house them. And most zoo animals are rescued, at least according to Jack Hanna.

PS- the new header picture of Penny is ADORABLE!

Sharnee @ said...

Awwww, I saw what you said on FB and it sounded so sad :( I get what you mean about animals dying but it's not supposed to happen in the ZOO where professionals are looking after then?

Ironic collector said...

Hey there,
sorry about the wee giraffe. Sometimes stuff like that happens, despite the best efforts of everyone involved. I'm sure that in light of it being a cute baby animal, and a charasmatic animal such as a giraffe, that the zoo did everything they could to save him. Maybe the zoo keeper can learn from this and keep it from happening to other cute baby animals. But I'm sorry. It makes me sad. Hope your day gets better.

Amber/Dia said...

I too have long been conflicted about zoos, particuarly Hogle. One the positive side, my parents had friends from college who worked there when I was a kid and we would visit them, while visiting the zoo and I got to see how passionate they were about the animals. Heck I was even a volunteer zookeeper every saturday for 2 years when I was a young teen. The older I got the more I was troubled by what I viewed a lack of proactive care for the animals there. Zoos around the country are changing and I think sometimes Hogle has too many animals. I'm very sad to hear about any deaths of animals there, as a momma I'm even more sad for the momma giraffe. :( If the federal investivation ever puts out any info, would you let me know?