Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GORILLAS I INSIST!

I photograph animals in zoos and occasionally, I  will have people ask me why I do it: that if I respect animals and are against hunting, recreationally, how can I even go to a zoo  That question was asked recently after I posted some images on my blog. When I was asked, a story came to my mind. When the notorious bank robber, Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks he replied, "Because that's where the money is." The reason I photograph in a zoo is " because that's where the animals are."  I love animals and enjoy photographing them. I, unfortunately, will never get to see all the animal species in the wild that I saw in just one day when I visited Disney. I know the concerns some people have with zoos: that animals have rights and should not be caged: (they say as they eat a ham sandwich and wear leather shoes).  I also know the arguments for zoos: some animals are in danger of becoming extinct. I will not argue either case here and now. I am a photographer, I photograph things. Are there zoos I will not go to? Without question, there are. If I go to a zoo and see animals in environments that are too small or dirty, I would leave and not return. I would also take images to document the conditions. But there are zoos that provide clean, large areas for the animals and have a medical team to assist the animals. Two that come to mind are the San Diego Zoo, (although I have not been there for over 6 years) and Disney's Animal Kingdom.




When I do go to a zoo, I always insist on spending the most time with the gorillas. There is something about them that fascinates me (and countless others). Gorillas are the closest relative of humans, after the two chimpanzee species. Their DNA is highly close to humans, around 95%. Gorillas' natural habitat covers tropical and sub tropical forests in Africa and they are highly intelligent animals. Many know the story of Koko, who was taught a form of sign language and appeared on 60 Minutes. Like other great apes, gorillas can laugh, grieve, have a rich emotional life, develop family bonds and make and use tools. They can also think about the past and the future. Some researchers believe that gorillas have spiritual feelings or religious sentiments. It has been shown that gorillas have different cultures where they prepare the same food differently and they have color preferences. They are truly amazing animals!

Now, the bad news. Both species are endangered, they have been and continue to be poached. Habitat destruction and the bush meat trade are two big threats to this species living. The Ebola virus has also killed an estimated 5000 or more gorillas since 2004. The Silverback gorilla, (one of the ones shown here) is an adult male usually over 12 years old and make strong group leaders.

When I watched them the other day, I admit to feeling sad: that these magnificent animals are in this environment. It's no matter that they are living in a very large outside area, not caged, but rather with a moat around the area, it still saddens me. But maybe if people all over the world can see images taken by photographers, they will be educated about them. Then maybe the people of the world will fight this practice of poaching. Maybe then gorillas can live in peace in their natural environment. I hope so. Meanwhile, please view my attempt at showing them in a respectful manner.















21 comments:

sulekkha said...

Lovely pics of amazing animals, JIm. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sulekha Rawat 1:26pm Feb 23

Amazing pics, Jim.

Debbie said...

Great photos Jim! Some even look like the Gorilla is posing for you. Thanks for sharing

JIM said...

Thank You Sulekkha and Debbie I really appreciate your kind words. I actually thought they were posing a few times lol

Sherry said...

Once again I am amazed and impressed!!

Jim said...

Glad you're asking questions about animals in zoos. And while thinking people rightly will want animals not to be in zoos, our shrinking wildlife areas may mean that zoos may be the only place they exist in the future. e.g. the giant panda.

JIM said...

Yes Jim that is the way with these type questions in the age we live in. No easy answers and the answers that sound
righteous many times are not the logical ones or the ones that can be done at all. It is not all black & white anymore mostly grey.

Mari S. Wilbur said...

Beautiful photos! Gorillas are amazing - brute strength mixed with grace and intelligence. You've caught it all with you photos. I love them!

Mari S. Wilbur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron said...

Jim,
As always I love the pictures and commentary. I love how you can tell a great story, throw in some social commentary, make us all take a step back and think, and then entertain us with amazing pictures.
You are always the first post I read each day :)
On a side note, do you shoot a tripod at the zoo or handheld?
Aaron

JIM said...

The 70 200 is aVR so I do not use a tripod any other type lens I would although at a zoo a monopod might be better

sweepyjean said...

Beautiful pics, Jim, and I must say, I admire your writing just as well. Interesting, the topic of animals living in captivity, plus all the gorilla facts. What a difference 5% makes!

JIM said...

Thank you Jean, after watching them for awhile I had the feeling that if their fingers could fit on the key board they could do a better job then me lol. 5% or no 5%

Royal Nirupam said...

We match 98% gene to them,so just 2% make them animals.unfair isn't it?
But very good post,loved it.

Nandini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nandini said...

Wow!! Amazing Jim...
only a very dedicated person can do something like this..
Hats Off to u!!

Nandini said...

btw the gorillas are really sooo cute...
:-)

FherYmas said...

Well, to comment on an artwork such as these sometimes denies the essence but anyway, since you ask my opinion...I'll proceed. First no doubt you understood your craft very well. Balance, lighting, and concept. I will therefor talk into another area which you might take into consideration...ask yourself "what is there in it for me?" I can see you enjoy all of these...that is of utmost importance. now the next question is "what is this for them?" The next question is optional BUT very very fulfilling.
I think you achieved both in the sense that this picture will stand thru time, something our grandchildren will wonder, where can we find those animals? or perhaps the scary question "What is that?"
Thanks for recording all this, lifelike experience even if I'm not there.

FherYmas said...

By the way can I suggest something? Is it possible that you tone down the background of your blog? Dark background is great for pictures but it slowdown computer. Some viewers may get bored and skip your blog. Dark background is good only for text but when u load rich color images it tends to slow down the browsing. That's my usual experience with other blogs...I skip blog that took to long to load.
Keep taking photos J and P

Bette said...

ooo…I love pandas. Here I bought a cuddly panda bag (L) that I can hardly put it down! I believe it is a GREAT find for every panda fanatic! http://hkpanda.freetzi.com/

JIM said...

Hey thank Bette your my first spam comment.. so cool lol