Thursday, January 31, 2008

Macedonia's Animal Kingdom

The resting jaguar. Click on the image to enlarge

Visit the Skopje Zoo. Help feeding the needy animals by paying the 50 denars ticket.

By Filip Stojanovski

Skopje (28.09.2002) � Even though it manages to survive in dire times, Skopje Zoo needs help. The management obviously tried to use the meager resources to reconstruct the infrastructure and even add new content. There are obvious signs of recent rebuilding of the walls, the place is kept clean, and there's a special place for kids to play on their own.

Of course, you might object to the whole concept of the Zoo: purchasing animals in order to put them in cages, ruining their lives and their population in the wild, so humans can take a look at them up close. I, for one, would not perpetrate such a thing. But, this is not an ideal world. We better make the best of what is, because things sure don't feel like moving into the direction of what should be. So, a walk through the Zoo can provide you with a lot of benefits, both educational and social.

First and foremost, you would be able to help the animals much more than if you ignore the problem. Paying the ticket helps the food fund, obviously. Just like in the elections, high turn-out declines the possibility of abuse. There are visitors who, alongside taking a throng of their kids to the Zoo, find sadistic pleasure in abusing the animals, especially the hippo or the monkeys, throwing (hard) objects at them and making a nuisance of themselves. Such persons think they are funny � and their children follow their example. I bet they'll think twice before they do such things again, if there are other visitors around to reprimand them about their improper behavior.

You can also find nice ways to communicate with the animals. This provides for a spark of the great feeling of oneness with nature, something of which many city-dwellers have forgotten. The effect is hundred-fold if you are a child. We can all benefit from the notion that we are not alone in this world.

The jaguar cub
Some visitors buy smoki snacks at the gate and feed the non-carnivores. This practice seems to be tolerated by the staff, which comprises of but a few persons, who are too busy taking care of the facilities anyway. There are several species of deer, horses (ponies, and "normals"), goats, and birds�ducks, swans, and geese--which all seem quite tame and act friendly.

The jaguar cub (born this winter), like any baby, is always happy to play and likes the visitors' attention. He is yet to become like the other cats, which have "got used" to being crammed in the cages the size of a large room, instead of roaming through tens of kilometers of territory, a normal habitat for the lions, jaguars, or leopards. They seem numbed, lying all day, breaking the habit only to pace nervously from time to time in great speed in front of the iron bars.

One of the jaguars. It's funny that no prominent paramilitary organization has taken the name of this great cat species. They are the most numerous great cats in captivity in Macedonia

There's plenty of more to discover in the Zoo. Some cages are eerily empty, but there are still families of camels, peacocks, chicken, vultures, pigs, llamas, alpacas, and African and Tibetan cattle, some of them with offspring. The Zoo also houses the Museum of Natural History (closed after 4 pm), where you can see fossils, mammoth tusks, sculls and bones of prehistoric animals, and dioramas of our contemporaries, insects (colorful butterfly collection), and fishes.

Be there. It's cool to be kind to animals... and other people.

The black panther.

The jaguar cub:

The baby jaguar among the smoki snacks thrown by the well-wishing visitors.

[This article was first published on now-defunct Reality Macedonia news and opinions website on September 28, 2002.]