Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Exhibit Visionist" Thoughts Continued...

After writing the previous post, my mind was still circling with thoughts about it.  Too many thoughts, that I haven't been able to lay them out.  I'll attempt to now, because I have had a few comments posted that I haven't yet replied to and need to.  I appreciate everyone who leaves a comment and in that appreciation, I want to respond to each.  I think I want to write this post before doing that.

Overall my feeling is that hiring this new guy is great for only one reason, no one currently on Staff seems to be capable of this kind of thinking as yet.  BUT that doesn't mean it is the right way to go.  That said, its probably the only way to go as of now.  Spending money for an additional "mind" is borderline ridiculous, because there is a whole Staff off people already on the Payroll, that should already be minds there with the "sense" of what is the right thing to do for these Animals.  "Should be" is the operative term,  so apparently, what else can they do?

I think what makes me shake my head and turns my stomach is that to me so many things seem obvious.  I've written an endless stream of comments, suggestions, observances, ideas, ect.  for almost every aspect of the Zoo.  Some are taken at value and I've seen acted on.  Others specifically where Animal enclosures are concerned, like with Wishbone's habitat condition, are ignored.  The information and ideas are out there, both from me, from the position of someone who is there all the time, as well as endless research available online in regards to other Zoo's and natural habitat guidelines.  This one specifically ( ) was forwarded to me by my friend Hazel, another longtime San Francisco Zoo Visitor and Friend to the Animals.  I never got to making this post on my site to bring a natural surface to Andean Bear Wishbone's home ( ), but the information is out there.  

Bottom line, the Zoo needs to employ thinkers and doers and get rid of those who don't fall into those categories.  There is too much not being done and its holding the Zoo back from being the best that it can be.      This slack starts at the top with the Director.  There needs to be a Director who cares about Animals, and is therefore Animal minded.  I'm not even talking about someone with an Animal Care educated background, just someone who thinks with the Animal in mind.  I often have a vision of Director Peterson at a Guardian Member Reception showing photos of the drawings for the new Squirrel Monkey exhibit, an awful exhibit full of what looked to be white laminated faux trees.  She kept saying, "Think modern."   Clearly someone who doesn't get that modern is not a word that is used for natural spaces.  Nature is natural. 

I'm going to continue my thoughts by pointing out things about this article in reference (see previous post).  

The quote by Director Peterson 
"As we build new exhibits, we're putting the animals' wellness first and the visitor experience and other things secondary,... It's kind of a new look at exhibit design."  ...  Does this even make sense?  To me no.   For one, any new exhibit being built, upgraded, renovated, ect,  in the last twenty years should be following this.   Additions to existing exhibits should be following this.  I'm not quite sure why there is a whole Staff of people there, including her that don't know this on an compassionate and empathetic level.  Its common sense.  I surely hope that those plans for the Squirrel Monkey exhibit are being redone to exclude the modern white trees AND since the Animals are being considered first, I assume the children's play area adjacent to it will not be a part of the end product.

Now as for putting the Animals first.  I was told a couple years ago by a couple Keepers that Management never puts the Animals first.  There were some things where that was apparent but as time went on it became absolute, and now here we have it, right from the Director's mouth.  How is it that at an Animal Park, the Animals don't come first?

<The zoo has come under fire in recent years for its old and rundown exhibits and charges that animal welfare has not been a priority.> ... If this has been going on for years, why have they only now decided its time to make changes?  Why (and yes I'm forever going to refer to this) was Wishbone's left to break down on concrete til he died?  There is more to it.  The timing is curious in the wake of too many recent deaths, including Wishbone's.

Terry Maple is quoted, "He hopes to have a similar impact on the gorilla exhibit here."  .. WHAT!?  The Gorillas already have a nice space.  Keeping people from hovering over them is the most that should be done there in the near future.  If this is where the new guy wants to start then money is being wasted.  Giving priority attention to areas that are decent is wrong.  The Polar Bears live in excess of 50% of their lives on concrete and this guy wants to put his efforts of Welfare with the Gorillas?  Outrageous.  

Also note that nowhere in that article are the Polars mentioned.  Or the Chimps for that matter.  Their third Grotto could use some help so they have access to it again, expanding their living space.  I truly think the Zoo is waiting for the senior Chimps and Polars to die before they will put anything into those areas.  Wishbone is proof of that long thought theory.

"Just having a lion sleeping in the corner isn't exciting for you or the lion," Maple said.  ....  No shit!  At least when the Big Cats were getting weekly Enrichment Toys, they were up and active for a nice period of time.  They get nothing now but the same old Plastic Toys put in different areas, with a bone in them.   

Also note, nowhere in this article does it mention how bored the Chimps are.  It only mentions about an Animal who by nature sleeps twenty hours a day.  What about an Animal who by nature is closest to a Human and needs constant stimulation but doesn't get it?

<The zoo has raised about half of its $10 million goal to fund a new squirrel monkey exhibit, updates to the South American Tropical Forest building, and additional renovations to its North American region. No funding has been found yet to retrofit the gorilla exhibit.>  ... So, the Squirrel Monkeys have a decent home, at least the Zoo must think its decent enough to keep the other Monkeys in, YET they are fundraising for a new exhibit.  Now, I heard money for this was already in place and as such designate by a specific donation.  If that were true, why is there continued fundraising?  If they have 5 million dollars, that could go along way to upgrade existing exhibits.  5 million sure could have bought Wishbone alot of grass.  GRASSHOLES!   The way money is spent makes me sick.  "Renovations" for the North American Region?  From the Master Plans I saw this was to be a whole new area bringing in new Animals.  This whole thing should be put on the very back burner until existing Animals have updated and landscaped areas to live in.  PERIOD.  And funding anything more than a better barrier situation at Gorilla's is criminal.   ... Bottom line, fundraising should have been in place for upgrades for Bears and Chimps way before anything else.  But, it has been noted in many places that fundraisers are not happening for those or any other thing that needs actual attention, but more for new stuff, like the No. American Region and those stupid plentiful playgrounds.  Are donors ever presented with stuff that needs attention?

Vice President of Animal Care David Bocian is quoted, "We can achieve better, and we have achieved better in just these past few years,"  noting that a new lemur exhibit features the high trees and spacious environment that Maple endorses.  ... Are you kidding me?  The Lemur exhibit was a decade and two Directors ago, natural Animal habitats are not a new thing.  Actually do it at the San Francisco Zoo is a new thing.  OR will be.  What happens with the Polars and Chimps will be the true test.

It appears the Zoo is once again patting itself on the back and trying to pull the wool over the public's eye.  To the occasional Visitor/Member, heck even to some of the Docents/Volunteers that may work, but to someone who actually cares and takes an interest in what goes one, most of what comes out of the Zoo doesn't fly.   They sure got alot of Media attention on this one, I certainly hope this guy comes through and does more than play with hedgehogs and have fantastical dreams for the Gorillas.  There are Animals there who really need help.

One thing mentioned several times in this article is Welfare and Wellness.  Their whole new "Wellness" thing is curious as well.  I will be writing a post about that next.  Welfare and Wellness should be a given.  I wasn't aware keeping and Animal healthy was a new thing.

I know there are people on Staff there who have the sense for what the right thing to do is.  I know there has been people there, previous Director's included who have had the right sense.  Unfortunately there are too many people wearing the hat of authority and from what I hear it changes at whim and sometimes the Director is who can make the call, sometimes the Zoological Society is where the buck stops and sometimes the City Park and Rec holds the reigns.  I know for a fact, there was a plan in place to make changes at Bears many years ago, that never materialized because too many hat wearers didn't have the sense to let those who knew the right thing to do, do it.  

I've been trying to call attention to the curiosities for over a year now.  I have alerted all the appropriate players in regards to different issues, City Officials, Park and Rec, Board Members, AZA, USDA, no one seems to care.  I can only assume they either think the current Management team is doing a bang up job and just let them have free reign, even when its obvious they have no clue (and hiring someone with supposed clue, cements that theory).   All i can do is further assume that all the appropriate players don't care or dont have the time or energy to care.  The city needs a Zoo and as long as its getting by without calling too much attention to bad stuff they let it ride. 

*I apologize temporarily if there are any flow issues.  Evidently I'm more pissed about this than i thought.  I have a headache now after this and didn't proof read it.  Will check it later.

** Again not sure what is going on and why certain parts get highlighted.  Sorry but I don't have the time or energy to figure it out and fix it.


  1. I absolutely agree with you 100 percent, cannot hardly add to it. "wellness" is a given, but I guess they are trying to "keep up with the obamas" with their little excercise signs for kids all over the place. I worry for the bears
    and chimps since they are all older and have run down exhibits. The gorilla area doesnt need upgrades at this point. It appears that all these "players" wash eachother's hands and really feel they are doing a bang up job. I hope and pray that this new visionary turns the zoo around. I hope that he has a clear vision and not a muddled vision with his head already filled with the excuses that have played out. I am keeping my fingers crossed...I love these animals!!!

  2. @Lee- Thank you for your comment. Yes the point of upgrading the Bears and Chimps, is just that, to add to their lives. A complete remodel is not only a fantasy financially, but would displace these senior Animals and that would be wrong. ... I too hope his head has not been filled with the usual BS that swirls within the Zoo.


*Thank you for your comment. All comments are appreciated and I try my best to reply back in a timely manner. Sometimes "timely" isn't possible, but I will reply to all comments at some point. Please check back.
*As with all posts, please expand comments for additional insight and information.
*If you have a problem commenting, please contact me via the link on the sidebar.
*Contact the San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson if you want your voice heard within the walls
*Thank You for taking the time to read about things that matter to me.