The Worcester Journal has just published its summer edition of short stories, reviews, memoirs and cultural insights and I am proud to say that my flash fiction piece Photo of a Tiger has been included in the lineup.
This story was written well before the recent, untimely death of the silverback gorilla, Harambe, at the Cincinnati Zoo; however the very public and controversial passing of that endangered animal did once again bring to the forefront of public discourse the role zoos play in the preservation of endangered species, which is the central theme of my story.
At what point does a species preserved in a zoo environment become so generationally imprinted upon man and so accustomed to captive life and divested of the learned behaviours essential for wilderness survival that it ceases to be a wild animal at all?
At what point does such an animal cease to be of value for species survival and, instead, become merely a component of the human entertainment industry?
I don’t necessarily dislike zoos. They serve as a means to connect the human heart to the plight of the nature, that those who care might want to save it. And they preserve those species that can be brought back from the brink, that they might one day repopulate the wild places set aside for them. Where zoos become problematic is when they become living museums of otherwise extinct animals; when they serve as little more than storage bays for species whose wilderness has long been turned to crop and plantation and buried beneath the waters of hydroelectric dams with no intention of it ever being returned to its natural state. When this happens, zoos become sad and morbid places and the animals pacing the cages within, with no memory of their culture and what it is to hunt and run free, little more than shameful reminders of what man has stolen from the Earth.
The latter, I fear, will be the ultimate plight of the tiger.