Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Let these leopards go!

Snow leopards: rare, endangered big cats. And their name suggests the part of the world where they’re native: the high, bitterly cold mountains of Central Asia.

So, then, what are two snow leopard cubs doing in Cape May, NJ? Easy. They are born-in-captivity residents of the Cape May County Zoo. It is to laugh (after sighing, gnashing teeth, fist-shaking).

The claim: that zoos around the world are helping to conserve these animals by housing and breeding them. Hmmmm. How’s that? These babies were never in the wild, nor will they be. They exist to be in the zoo, in this case, a south Jersey zoo.

That may be a fate worse than death, or extinction. “Extinction is forever,” the saying goes, but if an animal could be consulted, would s/he choose life in a zoo? Would any animal make that choice, if given the chance?

OK, so humans can visit the zoo and see the snow leopards – which are heavily furred animals, the better to withstand weather in the Himalayas. Then what? Maybe they’ll contribute to the Snow Leopard Trust, an organization proclaiming its desire to conserving the animal? Then what? More snow leopards in zoos?

Gee, maybe they could become circus animals too, like the tigers who are on the same endangered list. Or the pandas, ditto, who also populate zoos?

Is a "zoo snow leopard" (which I’ve read can’t be released to the wild, by the way) a real snow leopard? Would it be more intelligent and humane to let these creatures go extinct if they must, rather than making them into captive models for tee shirts and tote bags? Talk about fates worse than death. Or extinction.

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