Kitchen Table Kibitzing 01/11/2022: Bears at the pharmacy



The Oregon Zoo is located in Portland, and is owned and operated by the regional metropolitan government. In order to demonstrate that the zoo is doing its part for Keep Portland Weird, I would like to paste here the opening paragraph of the history section of its Wikipedia page:

The Oregon Zoo was founded in 1888, making it the oldest North American zoo west of the Mississippi. It all started with two bears bought by Richard Knight – a brown bear and a grizzly bear. A former sailor turned pharmacist, Knight began collecting pets from his sailor friends. He kept his collection in the back of his pharmacy in Third & Morrison streets. When caring for the animals became too much of a responsibility, he sought to sell them to the city of Portland. Instead of buying the animals, the city offered to give Knight two circus cages and allowed him to place the caged bears on the grounds of City Park (now called Washington Park).

Ok, so the zoo started out as a guy keeping two bears, a grizzly bear, at the back of his downtown pharmacy near the courthouse. Until it becomes too much of a responsibility! How long did it take???

Luckily, the zoo is a pretty different place now. I think most zoos of all sizes are trying to get it right these days, and the Oregon Zoo is involved in many programs around the world to help animals survive, whether on-site or in a temporary or permanent place of safety.

For example, they work with this organization which rescues orphaned baby orangutans in Borneo whose mothers have been killed by logging or palm oil companies. They must teach babies to live on their own as orangutans, even if they are not orangutans personally. [5:12]

Western pond turtles are threatened by many factors, but one of them is that invasive bullfrogs eat the babies. So some just-hatched turtles are collected and raised in safe habitats like the Oregon Zoo until they are too big for frog food. [3:26]

The zoo participates in the California condor breeding program. Chick 884 had a few struggles, but she got through it fine, and I have to say the pictures of her stomping around in the nest box are quite funny. [5:48]

Again the cursed oil palm plantations of Borneo! The problem this time is that large areas of elephant habitat have been converted into oil palm plantations. Amazingly, elephants don’t understand this and continue to occupy the wide range they need. To prevent them from being shot for damaging the palm trees, this group painstakingly restores the forest corridors to allow the animals to bypass the plantations. [4:47]

This cute little owl has fallen out of its nest. He was rescued by a raptor center, but he didn’t know owl, so they couldn’t just release him. He found the home he needed at the zoo. [1:17]

This poor South African porcupine wandered around Washington State for many months, almost certainly after being bought as a pet by some idiot and then found to be too difficult to care for. This is not the last time we will hear this infuriating story. [3:17]

The zoo is home to several rescued eagles, most with eye injuries that rob them of the vision they need to hunt. [4:23]

Once again we learn that an exotic animal, in this case a sloth, is not a pet that belongs in someone’s household. [5:32]

Cougars are yet another animal that is too often orphaned when humans kill the mothers. Some can be sent back to the wild, but some, like Chinook, who grew up stealing supplies from parked cars, need a home like the zoo. (Baby cougars are super cute! Remember our lesson that they don’t make good pets!) [2:49]

Chloe the chimpanzee and her friend Dr. Goodall are now alumni, with much to teach us. They have been allies for many years. [4:53]

It’s a weird little thing: it’s a 1984 television special in which Gary Burgoff (Radar O’Reilly) organizes a concert (in a zoo) of excerpts from Saint-Saëns animal carnival, which he narrates with verses from Ogden Nash. YouTube commenters assure us that this video was a highlight of their elementary school music education, but I’m obviously too old to have had any idea it existed. [27:23]

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