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Rethinking the L.A. Zoo

February 13, 1996

Obviously the Great Ape Forest ("Branching Out at the L.A. Zoo," Feb. 6) is a good idea. But why not plan on changing all those awful gunite moats? The old zoo--circa early 1960s--was a dense, heavily wooded area with animal and bird sounds emanating from hidden, and to a child, often scary places. There were far fewer animals, but they seemed to live in a more jungle-like atmosphere. Everything is wide open now and the sense of mystery and wonder is almost absent.

Some suggestions: Once you [enter], hundreds of plants should be awaiting so there is a sense of something hidden. Visitors should be able to see some animals before they walk more than a quarter-mile. Change the zoo from a high school laboratory to a living, breathing environment.

ANNA SKLAR

Los Angeles

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What the L.A. Zoo needs to do is specialize in specific environments--rain forest, desert, etc.--and do a good job simulating them. Make it a hands-on experience. If you could walk through a rain forest and experience the plants, fish, animals, insects and sounds, it would give people a better understanding of what is out there in the world.

MARK FELLMAN

Los Angeles

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I am an environmental studies student at USC. I firmly believe that a zoo in itself is entirely unethical and, therefore, cannot be improved by any means. There are other institutions which could just as adequately provide the services of the zoo while maintaining respect for the freedom of the animal.

While it is true that people should ideally be able to comingle with wildlife, it is equally true that animals should not be forced to sacrifice their freedom for the benefit of human education. Basically, zoos take species out of their natural environment and place them in concrete habitats to be gawked at by hundreds of visitors per day. We are not learning anything from these animals. Rather, we are taking them away from their environments and placing them in cages and pits for our own "enlightenment"--which is merely a disguise for our barbaric desire to be entertained at the expense of the entertainer.

Do zoos really increase respect? I have seen children taken to the zoo by either schools or their parents. They see a helpless animal trapped in the cage at which they may poke, throw dirt, etc. How does this teach the child to respect the animal, when she or he feels power and superiority?

JENNIFER ARRACHE

Los Angeles

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On my last visit I witnessed an event so disturbing I've yet to return. Children were throwing things at an animal in order to elicit a reaction. The adult "supervising" the children did nothing, and there wasn't a zoo employee in sight. The zoo has a responsibility to teach children (and adults too, unfortunately) an appreciation and respect for all living things.

ALEXA G. POGUE

West Hollywood

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I recently visited the zoo and would agree with the inspectors that the animals appear to be in excellent health (although one little canine, I believe it was the bat-eared fox, looked pretty cold and miserable curled up on the damp, leaf-littered ground).

However, a number of animals looked rather bored or lonely. Perhaps they might benefit from associating more with others of similar or even different species. If I were a free-ranging animal, I would find some of these confinements too confining. If I had, say, 400 square feet allotted to me, I think instead of a 20-foot-by-20-foot pen I'd prefer an 8-by-50 run. Of course, all of us creatures need some private quarters as well.

Thanks again for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the animals. They told me they would have sent you e-mail themselves but their "lion" was busy.

DOUG DRENKOW

Arcadia

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