BLT: The Loving Trio

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

2D274905923598-today-BLT-140523-01a.blocks_desktop_mediumTake the largest, most aggressive predators from three different continents and throw them together in a cramped Atlanta apartment and what do you get? Mayhem? Well, not exactly. What you get exactly is a love story and a lesson in tolerance, perseverance and making life work.  Thirteen years ago, Atlanta police burst into a drug dealer’s apartment and found, Baloo, a North American brown bear, Leo, an African lion, and Shere Khan, an Asian tiger. A status symbol in the drug culture, the then-cubs were sharing a miserable life of neglect and starvation. Freed from their captor, the trio were dispatched by authorities to the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia for R & R. But then something wonderful and telling happened. The group, who had struggled together, began to thrive together.

“They actually seek out each others affections,” animal husbandry manager Allison Hedgecoth said. “They nuzzle each other. They play together.” A bond formed by duress and cooperation to survive was stronger than any sense of  species identity. While the animals interact with the other residents of the preserve, their genuine affection for each other is out for all to see. It’s a brotherhood as real as any human institution.

The law continues to regard these creatures as mere property. Ignoring their very human-like sentiments and value to us, courts tell us that animals have only the value 2D274905923565-today-BLT-140523-05.blocks_desktop_mediumof a beast of burden or sideshow attraction. Stories like this make me wonder if they have value as teachers of humanity as well. Can mutual interest really suppress inborn aggression?  Are ways available for creatures of different colors and attitudes to work and live together not just in tolerance but in genuine harmony? Will humans ever reach the utopia found by this unlikely “family”? Are Homo sapiens really the dominant species in a moral sense?

Noah’s Ark founder, Jama Hedgecoth seems to have discovered the secret that eludes many, “I think people, they really want to be like that. They teach you how to get along. They’re definitely not the same color. They’re not the same species. They’re not even from the same country, and they love each other. They’re brothers, and they teach you how to love.”

According to their website, Noah’s Ark is “a non-profit Animal Sanctuary dedicated to bringing children and animals together with the purpose of providing unconditional love, unconditional service and a future full of hope.”  You can read about their good work here.

Future full of hope? Mission accomplished.

Source: Today

~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor


63 thoughts on “BLT: The Loving Trio

  1. The animals @ the SD Zoo do not perform tricks for the guests. It’s part of keeping the animals engaged mentally and physically. Animals are like people. If allowed to simply lounge around they become, just like humans, obese, diabetic, depressed, etc. The tricks engage the animals in a positive way. I don’t see how, whether it be a zoo, SeaWorld, or your own back yard, how this is bad. But, to each their own. PETA doesn’t believe we should have ANY pets. Are you of that mind, angryman?

    • I won’t question your reading skills; just remind you that you may have missed the following: *”If you concede that we are going to imprison animals in zoos and other places like them; then I don’t object to teaching animals “tricks” as part of a play scenario to keep the animals entertained and interactive. *To force that same animal to perform for money is morally reprehensible”

      The question of whether it is ok to keep pets is perhaps more complex than you would think.

      In an ideal world; we would not have a need to keep pets. We would be able to interact with animals whenever we wished by walking outside and we would be free to develop relationships with those animals as we wish. They would also be free to associate with us or not and so presumably we would all find friends there as we do among humans now.

      No fool am I however so I realize that this is far from an ideal world. It is very easy to say “We shouldn’t keep pets” but in truth; I do and many people do BECAUSE they desire contact with these animals but can’t or won’t put in the work to gain voluntary access to them.

      They say animals are inherently fearful of man but the truth is that when animals are not exposed to man; they have little or no fear of man. Only when they are exposed to the cruelties of Man do they become so very fearful.

      So; I understand the desire to have pets. I do believe that “adopting” a pet puts us under a serious obligation to that animal. I believe that all living creatures deserve the same respect that we give each other (those of us who bother).

      Taking an animal; then exploiting it for the money it can bring is somehow; not keeping our self-interest under control. It is…….. doing it for the wrong motive. Greed is never a good motive. Only Love is a good motive; however misguided we may actually understand it to be.

      “We are trying to ensure the continuation of the species and we have to pay for our research somehow.”

      If The Bible is your thing; you will know that God gave Man dominion over all the animals and this fact is used as an excuse for everything from medical research to stomping your own dog to death in the backyard.

      But even if we give credence to that Biblical reference; it all comes down to; “Just because we can or are allowed to; doesn’t mean at all; that we should.”

      Having a pet can be a wonderful experience for you and for the pet if their is a real relationship but that takes time and attention and time is a rare and expensive commodity these days.

      Neglect can be as bad as abuse. You see? Complex. Should we or not?

      Only as an allowance to the isolationist nature of our world; I say; it depends on the real conditions and circumstances and the motive; always the motive first.

      Could I prevaricate any more; do you suppose?

  2. I have mixed feelings about zoos. I LOVE to see wild animals up close, but greatly dislike the old-fashioned cramped, 4 walls exhibits with the animals zoning out. I know an exotic animal trainer who has a pair of elephants he bought from a dying woman. She had these girls for years, bought them from a circus, and was distraught about their welfare. He bonded very closely with them. His previous setup (he has since moved) was in a box canyon. He would take them out of their corrals every day and let them out into the brush. They would forage and walk around all day, and he could easily keep an eye on them. They would rumble in greeting to him, roll over, and get belly rubs. It was beautiful and moving to see them interact. So, as long as the animals are in roomy enclosures, with lots of stimulation like toys or behaviors, and they are happy and content, then I love to see them. For the most part, the animals who do best in zoos are those without large ranges, or the instinct to roam. We see wolves pacing, always, but zebras are happy as long as they’re fed and in a herd.

    Although I adore killer whales, and am impressed with their interactions, I do not believe these animals are suited for close confinement. They are just too large to provide adequate room. Even the large tanks at Sea World are dwarfed by the whales they house. I’ve read their papers, and the science they provide is overrated. They did great work on figuring out calorie requirements, and it was a great opportunity to weigh them and so on, but they drive marine biologists nuts. They mix in transient whales (who eat marine mammals like sea lions) with resident whales (which eat fish). These two groups diverged long ago, and have different diets and instinctive behaviors. But they are close enough to breed, which produces very confused offspring. The diet they do feed the whales leads to tooth decay, so they have to drill out the core of their teeth when they rot, and then irrigate the holes every day. Most of the whales are on handfuls of meds every day to treat their various conditions and ailments. The groups they have evolved to live in cold water, but they’re in warm climates. In the wild, residents live in a matriarchal society. The males stay with their mamas for life, only leaving for a few hours to breed before hurrying back. Males live about 60 years which is less than females, who can live to 90. Mainly this is because when their mother dies, the males have zero social structure, and are not accepted into neighboring pods. They often die soon after. The females live with mama until they have a couple of calves, and then they “move next door” and start their own family unit. They have a complex, strong social structure, and have joyous reunions. The males, theoretically, keep their aggression in check by taking a few hours off for bachelor parties in which they go kill sea lions or dolphins for fun to blow off steam. (Sound familiar?) But at Sea World, they do not maintain a natural environment like they do for animals at the SD Wild Animal Park. They mix transients with residents, and they separate the cute calves as soon as they’re weaned, and send them to other parks (the Baby Shamu tours) severing what should be a lifelong bond with their maternal pod. Their environment, for ease of cleaning, is sterile concrete. For an animal with sonar accurate enough to find a target a few millimeters wide, it must be mind-numbingly boring.

    I could drone on and on because I’m interested in this topic. But Sea World cannot compete with the naturalized exhibits at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. They create frustrated animals, and if you read their incident report, every single whale has had aggressive interactions with their trainers.

    To exhibit whales, I would be more interested in a sea pen for whales that, for whatever reason, could not survive in the wild. That would give them access to natural sea water, live fish to catch to supplement what they’re fed, an an interesting environment.

    • Karen – the San Deigo Zoo and its Wildlife Park do not have jumping Orca. There is nothing like being splashed by Shamu. Being peed on by a giraffe is not the same.

  3. I forgot to add that trained behaviors not only alleviate boredom, they allow an animal to be moved and examined.

  4. Thanks, Nick.

    I forgot to add that resident whales HATE transients. If a transient pod gets into resident territory, the residents have been observed to chase them until they beach. They have to wait for the residents to leave before they heave themselves off and make a run for it.

    Sea World houses non related males and females, transient with resident. The males, especially, are covered with scars from the females ganging up on them. Maintenance notes often remark that they find blood in the water in the morning. That is not normal in a wild pod, where there is almost never violence within a pod.

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