Tuesday, January 20, 2009
No, this is nothing like a "cougar" attack; this is a real big cat attack, right here in little ol' Frederick. A woman was attacked and nearly killed by a jaguar and remains in critical condition in the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma unit.
You see, we have a zoo of our own just north of Frederick, in Thurmont, called the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo - a big name for a zoo that is said to be less than wonderful to its animals. In all fairness, I haven't been there. Some of the comments left on yesterday's news story at the newspaper's website and some things told to me by a friend who used to work there led me to this conclusion.
I don't like zoos much, particularly the smaller ones that don't have a lot of space for the animals. My dislike for zoos began when my oldest, my daughter, pointed out to me when she was little that the animals were unhappy and that she didn't want any part of supporting an enterprise that was cruel to animals. Out of the mouths of babes, eh? Kids are supposed to like zoos, parades, amusement parks, and circuses. Not mine. They were always more interested in how the animals were cared for than anything else, so we didn't go to such places or participate in such activities. This is why I haven't been to the Catoctin Zoo.
What happened there? A rather new employee/caretaker was doing some maintenance in the jaguar enclosure. She'd been working there for about a month as a big cat keeper, but somehow she made the near-fatal mistake of not securing the part of the enclosure where she'd be working. The 200-lb cat attacked and nearly killed her.
It brought a little gasp of excitement to our small town, but it's incredibly sad. There is no talk about putting the animal down - which is wonderful news. The cat was only acting on instinct, and it was not the cat's fault that a mistake was made. Usually, however, any animal that attacks a human - for whatever reason - is "put down" even when a bit of human error or stupidity is to blame. I felt this way when Tatiana attacked the boys who taunted her and got into her enclosure; I feel this way now.
It isn't that I don't understand the zoological and anthropological desire to provide wildlife preserves to protect and study a small population of wild animals, but I don't necessarily agree with it. Sometimes it leads to a bad end for the animals, sometimes for the zookeepers.
Peace - D