I've enjoyed snorkeling with seals in the Sea of Cortez, and sea lions around Santa Barbara Island ... except for the bull sea lion that warned me away from his harem, and stalked me back to my sailboat. I nearly lost an eye freeing a cormorant from the hook of a young boy on Catalina. I've enjoyed kayaking with grey whales, and sailing among huge pods of dolphin and a whale shark. I was relieved to watch a bear continue down the traversing path I was on before I climbed up the steep slope to avoid contact. I enjoyed photographing a deer lick aloha cream from the hand of my first wife, and my dog chase a mare and her colt through beams of early morning sunlight around a meadow surrounded by trees. I was thrilled to watch a flutterby l startled in the eastern Sierras last July land on a sloped rock, fold the brightly colored tops if its wings together, exposing their grey undersides, and lean against the rock to blend with it. The list goes on and on.
Captive wild animals cannot be expected to behave normally/predictably. Many become psychotic. I spent many days at the Wild Animal Park; some just reading. One day a giraffe walked to the fence closest to me, and stared at me. I finally arose from my book, walked to the fence, and stared back. Then I realized what it wanted, and lifted a eucalyptus branch full of fresh leaves to its reach. It happily chewed on the leaves. It was an experience for which people pay, but even in the large pens of the Wild Animal Park, was it natural?
I understand the technology and motivation for zoos, animal parks and wilderness areas, but I think Disney had it right 50 years ago when he proposed buying Yosemite to exclude people from its floor while providing quiet, non-polluting monorail rides through various environs and elevations of the park. Unfortunately, "environmentalists" and those who believe others should subsidize their nature experience by way of government were appalled by the concept, and politically drove it to oblivion.
Now we can take people to the wildlife with fixed and mobile remotely-controlled web cams, and with "critter cams," and charge enough to fund captive breeding efforts and the guards necessary to exclude people from private property devoted to wild animals, or protect privately-owned migrating animals, and compensate property owners for crops eaten and damage caused.
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