Tarzan's Relations

[ San Diego | 4th August 2007 ]


San Diego's world renowned zoo plays an active role in the conservation of endangered species. Every day, thousands of tourists from America and abroad pass through its gates...

The Reptile House, opposite the zoo entrance, is for many the first stop on their visit. Zoos are a reflection upon the contradictory relationship between humanity and the rest of nature; and snakes occupy the deepest cranies of our psyche.

The zoo's alternation of high and low areas is landscaped with luxuriant vegetation. The imagery put forward is that of the tropical forest, the continental reference being primarily towards the African jungle, but with the comfort of escalators. Even the apparel of the staff adopts the fashion code of the African safari.

Pandas are the zoo's celebrities. They have an enormous compound all to themselves, the Giant Panda Research Station, set up within the framework of an ongoing collaboration with the Chinese government. One has to wait in line before entering, and after seeing the pandas themselves, can prolong the pleasure in the adjacent Panda Discovery Centre, Panda Shop, and café.

Across the way, confined in a small cage, is a small brown creature. The label informs visitors that this is a Western Lesser Panda. It has neither the aesthetic appeal nor the heart-winning cuteness of its larger cousins. And it has lesser, second class accomodation.

The gorillas and other primates have large enclosures. Elaborate landscaping includes constantly recycled waterfalls, lush growth, rockeries, steel and glass view ports. Humans become quite frenzied before the spectacle offered by our fellow primates: is it the expression of some subterranean jubilation that binds us, or the affirmation of some sense of superiority that our getting ahead on the evolutionary ladder pushes us to claim?