I am the daughter of the Barcelona del Floquet de Neu (Snowflake), emblem of the Barcelona zoo and even, for years, of the city. The Floquet was an albino gorilla from Equatorial Guinea that was captured by a hunter from the Essamangon people who, after killing his entire family because they destroyed their crops, realized that there was a live albino calf on the mother’s back. The Floquet was taken to the Center for Zoological Adaptation and Experimentation that the Barcelona City Council had in Ikunde and sold it to the primatologist Jordi Sabater Pi, who took it to Barcelona in 1966.
When I was a tadpole I thought that Floquet was my friend. From the Carmelo neighborhood (at the top of Barcelona) I looked out the window where I calculated that Floquet was and I was sending him kisses. I remember going to see it many times, running to the glass partition where a thousand children were crowded, and opening my eyes like planets. When I became a teenager I reconsidered and came to the conclusion that I did not like zoos, that I would not go any more, that I preferred a thousand times not to have seen the Floquet and that the elephants have to be in their land, the hiccups in their pond and the birds in the sky
Juan Fernández is called my son and he is 19 months old, and I would say that what fascinates him the most are animals. I repeat myself: I do not like zoos, I do not like that some beings are locked up so that other beings (that we consider ourselves superior, that is, that we are speciesists) can contemplate them for a little while and do the check of things seen with one’s own eyes. My boy (Juan’s father) is in favor of taking him to the zoo because he doesn’t want to deprive him of that experience. So I say to myself and I contradict myself: no and no to zoos, but what if for Juan I say yes for a little while?
We arrive in Fuengirola and my family is waiting for us with all kinds of animal figurines for Juan. “Roci, take the boy to the zoo.” And someone tells him that there is a place nearby where, just as he sees dogs and cats or chickens or horses, there are dangerous and very large animals such as tigers, crocodiles and gorillas. The boy’s eyes are chiribitas but go to know what he understood and in my mind resounds: “God, gorillas, no.” Fuengirola is full of posters with the faces of tigers and the boy with his finger and his mouth says, “there, there, zoo”.
At night, when he falls asleep, I establish a dialogue full of contradictions: What if I am pragmatic and I take him? If I park my opinions and make him happy for a while? Can our non-attendance at the zoo end the zoos? Do animals live so badly in zoos? What if I only take it to sanctuaries that guarantee that the animals are super cared for and not kidnapped?
I do two things. One, I ask for help in the group of mothers: “Hello girls, I need you to help me, should I take Juan to the zoo? I am against it but I have many buts”. And two, I call my friend Fernanda Tomala. She is from Galapagos (Ecuador), worked for years at the Charles Darwin Foundation (researches and protects native species) and has been an educator at the Madrid Zoo for eight years. He loves animals with all his being. “In zoos they are cared for even if they are in captivity and, despite the limitations they have, they are treated with dignity. They are offered the most suitable spaces possible, with facilities that have environmental enrichment. For example, capuchin monkeys lianas and trees so they can play, or fake termite mounds that they can explore and not get stressed. ”
Fernanda Tomala says that she also has these contradictions in mind, and that more investment would be necessary for animals to live better in zoos. For example, a more suitable and larger space for cats. He tells me that there have also been advances: “For ten years you cannot kidnap wild animals to bring them to zoos. Now there is an international network of zoos and exchanges are made between them. The animals that are seen are children of animals of zoo”. Tomala says that there are no longer shows but training workshops for the public, and that “if the zoos were closed, these animals would find it very difficult to return to nature because they are used to having food served and their needs met. “.
I call Ruth Toledano, activist for animal rights, editor of ‘El Caballo de Nietzsche’ (along with Concha López), a blog inside this diary a reference in the antispecies fight: “Zoos are places of captivity, sadness and loneliness. Animals are out of their place and maddened by lack of freedom, exposure and not developing their normal behaviors. So, when an animal repeatedly shakes its head or goes from one place to another, it is not playing with the children at the zoo, it is showing the trauma “. Taking the children to the zoos, he tells me on the phone, we show wrong values, such as the lack of justice or the null rights of other individuals, “as well as the pride and evil of man over the freedom of other species. “.
Toledano affirms that animals have been instrumentalized and reified in all facets of human behavior: “At first they began to traffic with them to display them as trophies that are part of a colonial look at the exotic. Now their existence for conservation reasons, while many of the animals that are in zoos are not species to conserve, but animals kidnapped from nature such as elephants “. When elephants are abducted and “imprisoned, a very complex and sophisticated social and family structure is broken that emotionally destroys them, so if they are conserved, it would be better to prevent ivory trafficking and their habitat.”
I look at the WhatsApp group and it burns. Marta writes: “I have a dilemma with this, because she loves animals and I refuse to go to the zoo. I am in debate whether Cabárceno or similar counts as a zoo.” Laura says: “I don’t think they have to see all the animals that exist live and direct either. I have never seen a polar bear, for example. It makes me angry to deprive him of something that other children enjoy, but I would not want to teach him that a zoo is ok “.
In the group they recommend places that respect animals (without usurping their habitat) such as Burrolandia, Safari Madrid, Kunaibérca, the Zoo-Koki Foundation (Toledo), the Santario Món La Bassa (Tarragona), Corazón Verde (Navarra) or La Pepa (Arcos de la Frontera). I remember Naiara Castillo, director of the Colegio de Viñas in Poio (near Pontevedra), who collaborates by raising funds for the Vacaloura Sanctuary in Santiago and who rejects zoos. Castillo does not promote or support going to the zoo as a director, but when she was a teacher she had to accompany the children to an aquarium: “I had to swallow my pride and go. What I tried to do was make the children reflect, I asked them if they believed that the animals were happy without being able to go out, if they would be happy with so little space. I tried to work on empathy and love towards them “.
Naiara Castillo proposes that if they want to see elephants, let’s save up and go on a safari in their natural habitat, and that to get closer to the animals they can also do it (and start) with the rescued and cared for their own territory. And I wonder: Will I ever be able to pay for such a trip? I read the group of WhatsApp and Raquel writes: “I have given up, Rocío. My boy did want our daughter to know the animals, and we have already gone to the zoo, to Faunia and to a couple of aquariums”, and Raquel concludes: “I suppose that within a few years will be one of the contradictions in the long list that we will have to explain to him. ”