Lions, Tigers, and Bears… but why?

A popular destination here in the area of Buenos Aires is the Zoológico Luján, also known as the Lujan Zoo in English. The Lujan Zoo is famous for having wild and exotic animals such as lions, tigers, and bears on display not only for seeing, but for touching and feeding as well. Many other students in my program here decided to visit, so naturally my curiosity was piqued.

The Zoo was fantastic. All kinds of animals that you could both feed and pet. There were horses, goats, flamingos, elephants, sea lions, tigers, bears, pumas, and so on. I actually got to go into the cages of both the lions and the tigers! Naturally I was terrified to try it–these are dangerous animals we’re talking about here!– but I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity, so I swallowed my fear and stepped inside.

Everything went over without incident, but I left feeling rather unsettled. Seeing such majestic animals being treated as mere toys broke my heart. Though the zoo claims that the creatures are not drugged, the milk they give them seems to be a bit too well-liked. It is not natural for a tiger to drink milk from the hand of a human. It’s just not quite right.

Tigers and lions are threatened species in this world; we need to protect them. The only question is, where do we draw the line? Tigers are tigers, they’re not little kitties that we can pet and keep in our backyards. Going to the Lujan Zoo was certainly an enlightening experience, but at the same time I feel somewhat ashamed of supporting it. Is it right that we exploit these animals this way? Is this really the only way to preserve the species? Is it even safe to have people in such close proximity to them? One thing is for sure, after this experience, I will certainly think twice before going to a zoo, or any institution known for exploiting animals. Yet another unanticipated lesson in the land of Argentina.

Liz De Luca
Classmates Connecting Cultures
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Spring 2012

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