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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A slice of life in France - Big cats pacing in Seine and Marne

While Disneyland Paris is the largest and probably best known theme park in the département of Seine-et-Marne in the Ile de France region surrounding the capital, it's not the only one competing for visitors.

Just a few kilometres away is Le Parc des Félins which, as its name suggests, is home to cats large and small.

There are 130 of them at the moment, kept in enclosures which cover 60 hectares allowing visitors to get up close, but not too much so, with felines from four continents.

The park opened in 2006, having outgrown its previous home at the Parc d'Aulneau near Chartres in the Eure-and-Loir département in north-central France.

A visit is undoubtedly educational in bringing children (and adults for that matter) face-to-face with some marvellous creatures.

There's the chance to learn a little or even a lot more about them; their natural habitats, behaviour, origins and how they survive the threats they face in the wild.

But any trip for many must surely also be tinged with more than a little sadness.

The park invites us to "seize the opportunity to see these amazing animals in the most natural captive environment behaving as they do in the wild."

And therein must lie the problem for many a visitor - and even more so for the big cats.

Yes the cheetahs have long grasses in which they can hide should they wish.

And there are trees around for the leopards or the tigers to laze under, but what exactly does animals living in "the most natural captive environment behaving as they do in the wild" mean?

Maybe there's an answer, somewhere.

The park criticises the life circus tigers lead and the conditions in which they're kept, calling them "inadmissable" and there's signs throughout proudly proclaiming how well it meets the needs of its residents.

"Tigers need space to run and jump, open fields to lie in the sun and many trees to rest in the shadow and mark their territories," read on of the signs.

"We have built this enclosure with these facts in mind," in bold letters as if to emphasise how grateful the animal should be.

But when you get to the white tigers what you can see is an animal distinctly less than happy with its lot.

Going about its daily business seems to consist it of pacing up and down - endlessly.

Presumably just as it would in the wild.

It passes in front of the camera, pacing along the well-worn path at the front of the caged enclosure, turns and retraces its steps, turns and retraces its steps, turns.....and you get the picture.

And it's not the only big cat around to exhibit such behaviour.

A Sumatran tiger in another enclosure gives a similar performance accompanied by an eerie wail that probably has more to do with a chest infection rather than a complaint about its life....but.

Elsewhere a Sri Lankan leopard hardly bothers to blink as it lies majestically in front of the cameras, while the lions quite properly just turn their royal backs in everyone.

But there you have it. That indeed must be the explanation of what "the most natural captive environment behaving as they do in the wild." means.

Is this really how we want to treat or see such magnificent animals?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it scary?

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