NON à l'Abandon de Zoo!!

Monday, December 20, 2004

On the eastern edge of Paris lies one of the two forests abutting the metropolitan: the Bois de Vincennes. It's a rather large park than many joggers, pet walkers and, after hours, prostitutes frequent. Tucked away in the Park are many different attractions: The School of Dogs for the Blind, the Hippodrome (racetrack), the Velodrome de Jacques Anquetil (ancient champion of the Tour de France), and the Zoo. We were too late for the Sunday races so we settled for the Zoo, something I have always had mixed feelings for.

Don't get me wrong. It's always stunning and slightly bewildering to find yourself face to face with an animal that you know you'd never see in any other situation, but who's life is reduced to some sort of simulation game. The Zoo happens to be one of those places where both actor and public find themselves trapped in a relationship based in a zone of similitude. Unfortunately for the animals, they don't get to walk away after the day is done and go on with the rest of their lives.

The Zoo covers 14.5 hectares and has most definitely seen better days. We parked a little bit off the entrance and walked. Next to the road was the giant 65m fake mountain they built to house the animals. The fake mountainous range, which looks like it's made of papier mâché, tapers down towards the entrance. At its edge was a sign which read "upcoming lemur exhibit." Definitely a means to get people out of their warm apartments and spend an afternoon in nearly sub-zero temperatures for one of their two days off.

Still, what was even more horrifying was the decrepit state of the building. Hidden behind the sign was a large gaping hold, as if someone had bitten the building, and underneath the hole were several bare plankings, some of them hanging free. If someone hadn't told me, I would suspect that what I was walking into was the set of a film, sometime after some apocalyptic event where people had forgotten what human beings were up to in the early 21st century.

Finally rounding the corner, we came across this sign: "Personnel en Colère!! NON à l'Abandon de Zoo!!" (Workers Angry!!! Say NO to the Closing of the Zoo!!) The sign was spraypainted on white fabric and hung just underneath the metal letters of the zoo, right above a warning sign indicating falling debris. Depressing.

I agree with the Workers! I too would be angry. It's bad enough to have to care, feed, clean and love an animal population that's clearly in depressing circumstances. It's worse that no one goes to the Zoo in the first place. Where is money and support for these poor creatures stuck so far from home?

So, if you're in Paris, and you feel up to it, go to the Zoo. The giraffes, elephants and hippos have gone south for the winter, but everything else is there. Please, even if you think it's a stinky way to spend a wintry day, do it at least once. If those animals are going to be stuck in cages the whole day, at least let them eat cake, or at least enough of their normal diet.