Buffalo Zoo goes ape for the gorillas
Zoos are an important educational facility for children, a means by which younger generations can see wild and endangered animals in real life, in an environment as close as is reasonably possible to what their natural surroundings would be, and by seeing a real-life image, rather than a picture in a text book, children develop a more intimate understanding of the challenges facing these rare and beautiful creatures.
Buffalo Zoo understands this fully, and has recently begun a series of programs aimed at educating the public, and raising awareness of the plight of some of the animals they keep, as well as informing the public of the importance of the zoo in conservation activities.
Such is the case with the “Ape-ril” initiative held throughout the month of April each year. This initiative is aimed at making an effort to get the zoo’s gorilla population up and active during the day, by changing their feeding times, so that visitors can see these immense and awe-inspiring animals in action.
Often, gorillas sleep or simply lie around when visitors go past their enclosures, making it difficult for the public to really understand the depth of intelligence and emotion that these animals have. They are intimidating with their size, but also touching in their facial expressions and movements, in so many ways they seem to understand that they are in an enclosure, and that they should not be here.
Indeed they shouldn’t be, they should be in the wild, in the jungles of central Africa, but because of their critical levels of endangerment they are obliged to live out their lives at the zoo. Although the Buffalo Zoo does all they can for these animals, at the end of the day gorillas should be in the wild, and the zoo understands that.
This is why the “Ape-ril” initiative has been combined with efforts to raise awareness of the plight of the gorillas, and inform people of the ways in which they can help these endangered animals.
"We decided a few years back to annually celebrate our gorillas here at the zoo," Cyndi Griffin, lead gorilla keeper at the Zoo told The Buffalo News. "Also we're trying to highlight conservation issues of gorillas in Africa."
Griffin added: "I've been doing keeper talks throughout the day to tell people about our gorillas, but also about ... gorillas in Africa and how endangered they are and the reasons they're endangered and what we can do to help.”
The plight of the Gorillas is just one of many crises in the populations of wild animals. The zoo’s Siberian tigers are representative of another species whose population has been decimated by human interference.
Many think it’s cruel to see wild animals kept in enclosures at a zoo, and it is. Although Buffalo Zoo has invested heavily in new animal management techniques, aimed at better simulating natural environments for animals, the fact remains that it is unnatural and they shouldn’t be there. But Buffalo Zoo is playing its part in helping keep more animals in the wild, by raising awareness among its some 400 000 visitors each year.
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