I Don't Like Zoos
I never have, so I am somewhat ambivalent about the news that Ragunan Zoo here in Jakarta is closed today and will be for the next three weeks.
I like to read the Jakarta Post
over my (early) morning cup of Lampung coffee, so I was aware that 19 birds there show symptoms of Asian bird flu. I reflected on this as I walked through the kampung
along the footpath above the river Ciliwung on my way to find a taxi. I walked past a couple of handmade cages
containing what appeared, to my non-ornithologically trained eyes, to be thrushes.
They hopped between the twigs therein. I strolled on and pondered their fate
. Much like that of their keepers, I supposed - inadequately housed.
I made the mistake once of going to Ragunan Zoo on a Saturday. My fellow visitors weren't there for education; weekends are for entertainment.
The whispered cries of bule
(whitey) and upfront accostings: "Hello, mister. Dari mana?
" (Hello, mister. Where are you from?)
I know what it's like to be an exhibit and I don't like it.
There are birds in the sky of Jakarta ~ burung gereja
(sparrows) and burung dara
(pigeons) - usually in pairs with whistles affixed to their wings so their 'owner' can track them. Some summery evenings migratory swallows swoop overhead. These rare sightings always remind me that Jakarta is far from being a nature lover's paradise.
Asian bird flu is, if I've absorbed and understood its genesis correctly, basically a man-made plague. It started in factory farms and then mutated and migrated into populations of wild flocks.
We tinker with nature at the cost of innocent lives.
Like the 19 birds in Ragunan Zoo.