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main index © Jeff Matthews entry Sept 2007 updates Nov 2012 & 2015, Apr 2016
The Naples Zoo—updates (below)
If you don't like zoos, I understand. The animals in zoo posters all look—well, not too unhappy about being in prison. The giraffes look sufficiently goofy, the tigers still look proud and menacing, and the elephants seem unperturbed. In real life, however, I still have to be convinced that wild animals should be contained in anything less than one of those wild animal safari parks, where there is at least the illusion of open space. If I hear that well-maintained zoos are one of the ways in which we help endangered species survive, then I guess I have to accept that. Grudgingly. And so I accept the newly reopened Naples zoo for what it seems to be: relatively small but well-designed and properly maintained.
The recent history of the zoo in Naples has been a disaster. It was founded in 1940 on the premises of the gigantic Mostra d'oltremare—Overseas Fair Grounds—in the Fuorigrotta section of Naples, though it didn't begin regular operation until after WWII. Over the next few decades, it acquired some sort of a reputation as a decent zoological facility—or so they tell me—but the first time I visited it (in the 1970s) I didn't like it. As I say, some people don't like zoos at all. I never went back. In the 1990s, the zoo—financed and run by the city—started to decline badly. By 2002, animals were suffering (and dying) from neglect. Volunteers and unpaid staffers struggled to keep it open. (Private citizens were going to butcher shops, buying whatever they figured a lion might like and carrying it over to the zoo!) It was closed in 2003. I remember how good I felt for the animals that they were being shipped out to facilities elsewhere.
The zoo has reopened recently under the private management of the owners of the adjacent amusement park, Edenlandia, so I took my second visit to the place the other day. The literature for the zoo guarantees that the animals are properly cared for, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that score. I didn't visit the whole place, but I saw a well-landscaped facility, an elephant, a few tigers, a camel, some flamingos, and even a small farm-animal petting enclosure for children. (The children seemed to like it and the goats didn't seem to mind.) There was even a row of smaller cages ("The way they used to pen up animals in zoos") for exhibit purposes only. (Maybe those are the ones I remember.) The new enclosures are much larger. If private management can make it a going concern and fulfill the plans to expand into the currently unused spaces of the east end of the Fair Grounds, then I'm satisfied. Not happy, but satisfied. There is still something not right about a tiger in a cage. The elephant I saw was leisurely tossing dust on herself (but, alas); the camel was just staring at the starers; but the tigers were pacing. That's what they do. Pace.
[See updates, Nov 2012, Nov 2015 & Apr 2016]
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