AT RANDOM: Extreme love for animals

Exhibit at this year's Interior Provincial Exhibition provides educational opportunity

A short time ago, I shared what I thought was a very moving, poignant photo with friends on my Facebook page.

It was a photo of a baby humpback whale that had beached itself in White Rock after becoming entangled in a fishing net and died.

People of all ages in the photo had gathered around the whale, which was cordoned off and guarded by police. Some had even put roses and flowers on the body, as if mourning the death of a family member or friend.

As I said, a powerful photo that made me and most of my friends sad.

But two of my friends commented that it made no sense to them why people would bring their children to see a dead whale.

To which I replied, “I think there’s a chance for education here. And I know I’d be curious to see one of these magnificent creatures up close. How often do you get that chance?”

And I feel the same way about the Xtreme Wild exotic animal demonstration, a big part of this year’s Interior Provincial Exhibition, direct from the Bowmanville Zoo just outside of Toronto.

Full disclosure: I did not attend this year’s IPE but now wish I would have because I would have loved to have seen Xtreme Wild’s lion, tiger, zebra and buffalo up close, and I may – though I doubt it – have even ventured for a ride on the camel.

What I don’t get is why people get so upset over exotic animals being brought in for exhibits.

I mean I get that the animals are not in their natural environments; that they are spending their life in captivity. I get that animals have been cruelly treated in circuses.

But, as Xtreme Wild points out with its travelling shows, the animals are brought in to help people – of all ages – learn.

Mike Hackenberger is used to complaints. He’s the director of the Bowmanville Zoo.

“I agree with you. What Xtreme Wild offered was excellent insight into the biology of predators and relationship with prey and how, at the end of the day, that’s one of the greatest influences of natural selection,” said Hackenberger, who was not in Armstrong. The exhibit was handled by the zoo’s head trainer and head keeper.

The Bowmanville Zoo is an accredited institution which brings high levels of animal care, animal welfare, animal research and conservation to their activity.

For many people, said Hackenberger, that’s not enough.

“Many people truly believe there are wilderness areas that can support large predators. I don’t happen to be one of those,” he said. “We are losing large predator populations around the world in the marine environment and the terrestrial environment.

“If we can use these animals as ambassadors and work with these animals to develop a higher degree of human responsibilities as it relates to the maintenance of the planet, then I truly believe we can make a difference.”

There has been criticism levied against the IPE for bringing in the exhibit. People have vowed to boycott the fair because they brought in wild animals to the show. Not sure if that means the rodeo is OK with these people but having caged animals is not.

And this is what I don’t understand from animal lovers.

Really? You’d boycott the 100-plus year-old IPE because it brought in animals that the majority of us, in our lifetime, would never get to see in their natural environment? If you had kids, you’d deny them a chance to find out what makes a lion roar or why zebras have stripes?

You don’t have to view the wild animal exhibits. Your choice.

Me, I have no problems watching lions and tigers and learning more about them, and am grateful I have the chance to check them out in my  backyard. I hope they return next year.