W4W – Time

Passing Time in the Gardens

This lion stood and stared, and not at anything in particular.

At the Zoological Gardens that is… but the speed of time seems to be a measure of how meaningful that time has been spent.

The Gardens

When you are stuck with no way out all you have is time. Time drags, time seems to stand still, and time can have no productive meaning. Poor animals. Most are happy visiting zoos and I have been to many zoos all across the country. But I am always a little sad.

The little bear tried to stay close to the big bear, but the big bear kept posturing toward it to leave it alone. They paced back and forth for a long time in their small enclosure, then went into the den. Polar bears are generally solitary animals. Polar bears have one million times the amount of space they would utilize in the wild compared to that of a zoo enclosure. Information from the video below.

Sad because I empathize for the animals resigned to a life of captivity.

Even the garden plants have spaces larger than many of the cages that animals inhabit. And these tight quarter conditions lead to some pretty stressed out animals.

Signs of stress or boredom of zoo animals include pacing, head bobbing, excessive yawning, rocking, repeatedly retracing their steps, sitting motionless or biting.

This bear awoke from a nap in the hammock and started to bite inside the log. It looks as if he has been chewing on the log for a long while.

Repetitive behaviors in captive animals is called “Abnormal Repetitive Behavior”. It describes all the odd repetitive behaviors we recognize in captive animals, like those found in zoos.

The Meerkats are in an indoor enclosure that is pretty dim. Don’t they have a desert life or live on open plains? It would be very bright in these type of habitats.

The odd and repetitive behaviors that animals in zoos exhibit are caused by conditions like depression, boredom and psychoses.  Zoos will give antidepressants or tranquilizers to control the behavior of problem animals manifesting signs of depression or aggression.

This vulture can only open its wings to get it up to a branch about six feet off the ground, one hop and one flap. Here it is sitting on the ground gazing skyward.

The lack of privacy for animals, especially those that live predominantly solitary lives in their native habitats, makes life literally unbearable, or at least, difficult for them. They often lack mental stimulation and get almost zero physical exercise. Bears that may travel tens of miles a day are reduced to cages and small enclosures. Birds, like raptors may never experience flight.

This spotted hyena has a rather large outdoor enclosure it shares with another hyena. Like the polar bears, the other hyena wanted nothing to do with it, repeatedly chasing it away. Hyenas live in family clans. So it started to push the ball for about 30 seconds. This is the first time I ever saw them play with the ball, but having little else, probably used it more out of sheer frustration.

You would think that zoo animals get accustomed to a life in captivity, but I am guessing that they really don’t. Instincts are retained after many generations of captive breeding and zoo borne animals suffer the same behavioral difficulties as their wild bred brothers do in zoos. You might think because they have ready food and bodily safety that they would be appreciative of this life of leisure, but animal behavior is very complex. The animal’s instinct is to be prey or be predator. Some, to be a burrower, or to live in trees. Zoos take away all the things an animals knows is right. Is it not any wonder they are bored with no job to do and lots of time to do nothing?

This tiger paced the same route over and over. It is estimated that big cats in zoos spend 48% of their time pacing a well-worn path. Lions have around 18,000 times the amount of habitat range in the wild as they do in zoos, according to the second video below.

Animals like polar bears or big cats are used to hunting, and regular feeding replaces hunting in zoos.  Hunting is an activity that hones the senses, keeps them physically fit, and occupies them for a good portion of their waking hours.

While I was viewing the tiger above, a mother was telling her child that she wished she had the life of leisure of that of the tiger that was pacing back and forth. I could only shake my head because this tiger was extremely stressed and did not look happy at all.

This otter kept trying to get inside its enclosure, pawing at the access door. Frustrated, it would go for a swim, dive down, circle the pool once, go back and paw at the door. This went on for over an hour. The otters have a very large and well equipped habitat compared to many other animals. Plus, otters seem to play and have fun, but you will see in the video below, it is not always the best of circumstance for them. See my post Otter Garden for images of the otters in their zoo home.

I love to see wild animals, but seeing the signs of stress in zoo animals, I look at them with great sadness. They are bored and sorrowful looking. You can argue that many wild animals are protected and kept from extinction by being housed and bred in zoos, but the reality is what kind of life do they really have?

Two Stories

A giant octopus, Octavious, in the Los Angeles, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, pulled the plug on its own four-foot by five-foot tank, drowning out the facility. The keeper walked in on a huge mess and a dead octopus. There was much controversy over housing this creature in such a small enclosure. Had Octavious lived, she would have likely fell prey to Auto Mutilation Syndrome it was surmised.

Another octopus would squirt water at the lights in the facility and short them out. Seems to me they were trying to tell their keepers something of great importance. That or in the case of the light-shorting octopus, passing time in a mischievous way.


The snow leopard was stalking the antelopes in the enclosure across the way. All it could do to pass the time was watch, track and pace.

Any animal that is denied its freedom instinctively knows that they are missing a big part of their lives, whether it was born in the zoo or not. Natural instincts don’t just disappear and zoos don’t train it out of them. Animals deserve to spend their time as nature intended. Unfortunately for them, people see them in many ways nature did not intend.

Two Videos on Zoo Life

The five-minute videos are of animals in zoos and the commentary tells the story.

What the Animals Think of Us

And this bear says it all.

I was passing the time visiting the zoo, but I got to leave and go home. I enjoyed my time photographing the inmates, but these animals will never experience the joy of going home.

Looked at Time Before

I have looked at time before with a look at nature and gardening, so I had to look in a different direction for this exercise. We must perceive it quite differently than animals, but it seems that the caged animals see time as one long ‘same and never ending’ experience.  See…

Gone But Not Forgotten

for a ‘cerebral’ look at time. I was surprised and a little disappointed at first that the generator gave me a word I did before.

The word today came from: Random Word Generator.

A Final Note on W4W

W4W was always about expanding creativity or seeing a word in situations not commonly thought of, like my look at time or the word accidental.

I often do posts on projects I had in college that were meant to make you see, feel and in turn, get creative. W4W came from a college exercise. Month in Tens explores themes, many of which were school projects, also.

You can see it here.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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27 Responses to W4W – Time

  1. Hey! I can’t believe that I’m first to link…usually I’m the last. Looks like the word prompted me to be on time with the link, and not just in time, haha.
    Your look at the existence of animals in the zoo is indeed a revealing one…time dragging on its heels, mundane but peaceful.

  2. b-a-g says:

    Donna – As I read your observations on zoo animals, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to office-workers.

    • Funny you should say that. Working for an architectural firm, I often thought that, especially when a project was due and I could not go home for a couple of days at a time. I was not bored, but often pacing and hurried. Before the firm moved to a new location, our drafting boards were all lined up along big plate-glass windows and we were ‘on display’ to passerbys. I had a hard time with that because when really creating, I want no one around. Not the same with graphics, like in an ad office. For some reason, being on display did not bother me there.

  3. Karen says:

    Donna, I’ve missed visiting you. The W4W post is very thought-provoking. Zoos are not my favorite place to visit; to see the inmates pacing back and forth or staring dully into space is disheartening. While it is true that many species would be extinct without the protection the zoo environment provides, at what price to the animal? It is a prison for them, and they are doing time but have committed no crime. Even domesticated animals, such as dogs, will pace around in circles if they are kept penned, or worse, chained to a tree. I would pace, too.

    Zoos serve a purpose; I would never have the chance to see most of the animals up close without the facility. But as the videos pointed out, there are major flaws involved. I think of my own little flock of hens and dislike keeping them penned up even though they are domesticated and it is for their own good when predators are out and about. They are never happier than when the gate is open and they are free to come and go at will. Obviously, there is no way to do this with zoo animals. There aren’t any easy answers to this dilemma.

    This was a wonderful post and I am educated and entertained every time I visit, Donna. Great work and good luck with the new site; it is amazing!

    • I am so mixed as to visiting zoos. I support them with membership because the animals need care. When I worked in Buffalo at a firm, I was going to be a zoo docent for many reasons, one of which was to be close to the animals. But shortly after orientation and getting the big book to study, I opted out. Getting behind the scenes was a little too much for me, as I was not expecting some of what I saw. I am also uncertain what to do about zoo animals. We need too preserve them from habitat loss and extinction, but at what expense? It would seem better to save the habitat in which they live. But poachers go in and kill the animals anyway, like the rhinos and elephants for example. I keep going back to the thought I had in my January posts on sustainability and think there are just too many of us for other species to live as nature intended, and that is a question that is even harder to answer.

  4. Victor Ho says:

    It’s always a difficult matter about the zoo. I have passed time as a child and adult visiting some of the more famous zoos in the US. It remains primarily an educational experience for kids. And the zookeepers are I’m sure, conscious of their captives’ plight. Whether zoos should exist is indeed a hard question. I am reminded about the recent story in Zanesville, Ohio where a private citizen owned and kept many exotic animals. He executed them or released them to be executed by local authorities upon his death. Your article was very thought provoking.

    • Like you, I have been to the biggest and best zoos in our country and Canada. In fact, Toronto zoo is one of the finest I have been to. They have very large and well cared for exhibits. But the question still remains on the quality of life. No matter how nice the exhibit, there is no substitution for freedom. I was rather shocked seeing in the video that polar bears have such a huge range, and then comparing it to the enclosures I have seen them in at zoos. The video said that zoos are now accessing and reevaluating the feasibility of keeping polar bears at all. I would not be too upset if they discontinued using them for display. But, what do you do with those in zoos already? I doubt they could be released back into the wild after having such association with humans.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hi Donna, I must confess that I often visit the Toronto zoo, because I so love seeing and admiring the animals. This being said, I also feel the same sadness that you do when I see animals pacing endlessly and yawning with boredom.
    Zoos have come along way in recent years. Cages are bigger and more natural. They also engage in important conservation. Still, one cannot help but wonder if caging animals can ever be a good thing.
    Private zoos, more prevalent in the U.S.A. than in Canada, are a huge problem. Conditions in these zoos is too often less than ideal.
    Thanks for including the photography links. I will definitely check them out.
    Recently, I was excited to sell my first picture to a magazine and now want to move my photography to the next level. I have gone about this somewhat haphazardly and would be wise to learn from your far more professional approach. Good luck with your website development! I am sure whatever you do will be terrific!

    • Jennifer, I just commented on the Toronto Zoo. It is one of the best zoos around for exhibit size and ‘natural environment’ in my opinion. You are so right on private zoos. Victor mentioned a recent tragedy that occurred in Ohio. Many endangered species were slaughtered at the hand of law enforcement. But, they were very ill-equipped to do much more than shoot them on site. I can imagine being in that area at that time. It must have been very frightening for people and animals alike.

      I added those links because I feel so many of you have such wonderful photographs and so much can be learned form some of the websites I have been posting lately. Plus, many like yours, are very salable. I have not really jumped in yet because I am still feeling my work needs more time to mature and develop, but I found posting it on some of these sites, I have been getting some good feedback, Flickr excluded. They must be a really tough crowd. I get a few views, but no real comments to speak of. On Nat Geo,I get comments quite a bit.

  6. I have always felt compassion for the animals in zoos as well. Captured and kept, it seems sad to live a life in that way. However, there is a part of me that sees the value in educating others about animals by being able to see and experience them. When the animals are far away, there plight does not seem as important than when we are able to see them face to face. There are many zoos that have been enlarging enclosures and creating stimulating environments for these animals which is much better for them. Although I still find it difficult to see these animals without their freedom, I hope their sacrifice of educating generations of humans is worth it. Thanks for hosting.

    • Zoos main direction is education and that is very admirable. And a problem with animal parks and zoos that have large real estate devoted to exhibits, is that viewers often can not see the animals due to how far away that they stay. It somewhat defeats the purpose of going to a zoo or wildlife park if the animals are lost in the landscape. At the farm, the large animals have fields that are many acres large and often, no animals can be seen, so I can relate to the disappointment of the paying customers visiting zoos. There really is not much of an answer to keeping captive animals.

  7. Well I have to agree with you about zoos. I do understand that they are trying to help animals that are almost extinct because we continue to be selfish and either kill them directly or through or negligence. But they are so bored and sad…I would never want that life. None of us are meant to be in captivity. i love B-A-Gs analogy of office workers. I do feel I am in captivity sometimes. I like your take on Time. Not sure mine will be all that earth shattering…you will see it Monday and I’ll link in then

    • The difference when working in an office, is that the worker still has his or her freedom and go home at anytime. They can choose another profession too. I no longer work in an office with a boss and love my job so much more.The creativity and designs belongs to me and not a firm. Freedom can be found in many ways.

  8. I have often thought the same thing when I visit zoos. Some zoos are really good about providing ample space for their animals and I like to support those. Last year my son’s class had an overnight field trip at the Atlanta Zoo and it was very educational. The tour of the kitchens and learning about the extensive food preparation that goes into feeding all the animals was amazing. The animals at the zoo eat better than any public school cafeteria in the country! (of course that may not be saying much…but my point is that they really took special care to feed all the animals well and properly.) I will have to check out the photography sites you listed.

    • I too saw the kitchen and feeding of the animals when I took the training course at the zoo. I believe the feeding is regulated in public zoos, but I don’t know about private zoos. I believe most keepers are honorable and caring too, or why else would you do a job such as this, because there is a lot of jobs associated with care that are really not so much fun. When I applied to be a docent, after the education part, moving into animal care would have been next. Dung patrol would not have been my favorite part, but having horses most of my life, I was quite used to it. When I worked for the architecture firm, I designed a building at the zoo to meet historic preservation review. I further worked on construction documents, so I was at the zoo a lot. That was what got me interested in joining in the care of the animals. But plans changed.

  9. HolleyGarden says:

    This post made me so sad, remembering how the tigers at the zoo pace back and forth, or wait by their little doors for closing time. I would not want that life, either. There is much to be said for freedom. Good luck with your photography ventures. I really appreciate you sharing all your knowledge with us.

    • I too saw animals waiting at the doors. The pacing tiger would go to his door, pace, then look through the window in his exhibit. I felt so bad for him. It was below freezing outside too, so I was surprised any of the animals wanted to be in their exercise yard.

    • andrea says:

      It really is so sad and disgusting too for us humans to treat these animals like that. But destroying their habitat is also another way of punishment for them, and we humans continue to do so in disguise for development. On 2nd thoughts, maybe it is already a part of survival of the fittest, who will rule the world, the beast or the people! Sometimes, maybe it is better during the prehistoric past, when beast and humans are almost equal in their capacity to survive. But who really knows!

  10. Stacy says:

    I have to say, the last time I went to the zoo and watched the polar bears I decided not to go back. I do value the educational experience and understand and support the purpose, but having had that education, now it’s time just to watch National Geographic specials… Like b-a-g is drawing parallels with office workers, I’m drawing them with chronic illness. I think anyone with ongoing physical challenges copes with that sense of imprisonment and frustration and meaningless time a lot. Even so, we have occasional respite and opposable thumbs and a lot more enrichment at our disposal!

    • When I saw the videos and they stated what animals were most affected by confinement, it was not too hard to see how right they were. The big cats, the polar bears, and the elephants were really the most noticeable to be unhappy. I watched the keepers try to get the giraffes in their indoor facility, and the biggest giraffe refused to go. The keepers kept prodding (not electric or anything, just a long stick) it to get it to move into the stall. I felt bad for the giraffe, but he held his ground and remained in the shoot. That had much less room because it was only about as wide as the giraffe himself. He could not turn around or anything, and really was stuck.

  11. “Inmates” is the perfect word for zoo animals. I find most zoos extremely depressing. Why do we think we can take these animals and lock them up for life? It is just like cutting down 150 year old trees because you want more sun in your yard. There is a basic lack of respect.

  12. bumblelush says:

    Have you ever read Life of Pi? It’s been years since I read it, but I remember a line in the book (I’m paraphrasing on rocky memory): If you were a tiger, would you rather be free and not know where your next meal will come from, or would you rather be in a zoo and know you’ll be fed?

    Anyway, I like that zoos give the ability to see animals that I otherwise wouldn’t see, but I usually leave feeling sad for the animals too. Best of luck with your new venture! Your pictures are beautiful, I’m sure it will be successful!

  13. andrea says:

    When i came here nobody has linked yet, but i can’t seem to make a post this time. I can’t imagine that not posting here in your W4W affects me somehow, as if I haven’t done something related to my work. One bad thing i don’t want to be called is lazy, especially when it comes to work, however it is what i call myself today. Do you know that last week i shot the cover of TIME and thought of being naughty this time and just post the obvious, TIME magazine, clocks, watches, etc, but still i still feel lazy. I feel so uninspired. I hope reading all these posts here will give me some difference! Maybe i am having a subconscious or subliminal winter affecting my psyche, i dont know.

  14. Dear Donna, What an interesting take on ‘time’, with beautiful images, as we have come to expect from you. I agree that zoos serve a purpose, but it seems so wrong to take these beautiful creatures out of their natural habitat and ‘lock them up’. I,too, have very mixed feelings about them. P. x

  15. Indie says:

    It is very sad how little space zoo animals usually have. At the North Carolina zoo, they are really trying to give the animals some space, but it can never be the same as the wild. I once saw a condor in a caged space the size of a small bedroom – I really could not believe it, it was so sad.

    Sorry I am late to the linking party – my computer has been most uncooperative lately!

  16. Kala says:

    Beautiful portrait of the lion. But I wish he could run free.

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