I was at the San Diego Zoo today with +Enrique Gutierrez
and +A.V. Flox
. We spent about 30 minutes watching the Malayan tigers, cagey behavior and all, and I couldn't help but overhear the conversations between the parents and children as they filed by.
One dad told his kid, "look at those teeth, he wants to eat you." To which the child replied, "I want ice cream."
Another mom pointed out the location of the tigers (misinterpreting their pacing, which is a sign of cagey behavior, for waiting to be fed), and her daughters wanted to know when they could go to the gift shop to buy their souvenirs.
In all, I probably eavesdropped on a dozen such conversations.
It struck me as odd (and deeply troubling) that even the most minimal efforts by well-meaning (if misinformed) parents to engage their kids with nature - even if that nature is highly contrived - were generally unreceived. The kids would approach the glass, find the tigers, and not a single one spent more than a few seconds admiring these magnificent, endangered
creatures. Most of those kids will never
get to see a wild Malayan tiger, behaving naturally. And if we can't excite children about watching these rare animals, how will they grow up to see conservation as a priority?
I know that my followers are perhaps a self-selecting group. Most of you followed me because you're already interested in science, in nature, in animal cognition. Perhaps I'm preaching to the choir.
Even still. Please, parents, teachers: try harder. The ice cream can wait. The tigers won't.