David Beach



The zoo was a place of boxes within
boxes, particularly at feeding
time—and while a keeper strewed fruit and
vegetables about the baboon enclosure,
the troop, thirty or more, close-confined in
a holding pen, were demonstrating an
eagerness to exit which suggested
that ‘to go from a smaller to a larger
box’ could stand as a definition of
freedom—and the rush out, too, a glorious
casting off of shackles, no less for
the scramble for the food, understood
as the looting hardly to be avoided
immediately after liberation.


The ostrich, on the hunt for bugs, appeared
out to earn the epithet ‘the poor
zoo’s elephant’, its neck a worthy
alternative marvel to the trunk, such
strength and flexibility shown as the
no-nonsense killer delivered rapid-
action, bunker-busting pecks, the slaughter
upon the bug population so grievous
that for an adequate comparison one
might feel drawn to whales and their plankton
eating, even while coming to the view
that with the ground at the birds’ feet a
perpetual smorgasbord the economic
case for ostriches was unassailable.


However essential a part of a
zoo’s charter keeping the animals well-
nourished, this could diminish the spectacle
at feeding time, as was being made clear by
a dingo, sleek, obviously never needed
to hunt a day in its life, which seemed
ready to disappoint for ever the
small crowd waiting to watch it tuck into
a hair, hide and all slab of meat, and only
at last closing its jaws upon the meal
to move it to another spot, from where
the dingo favouring its audience with
an unruffled grin that suggested its
hunting skills still present, just sublimated.


The lion was chomping away upon a
rather wretchedly small carcass, a rabbit’s
possibly, which however still needed
a bit of effort—when, its jaws open,
working to reduce some knotty portion,
what appeared to be an eye peeped out from
the fearsome maw—and a spectator could
but identify with an eye—and so
(more than just a caged animal prompting
reflections on how humans are constrained)
be confronted by the cage of human
mortality—as, thunderous purring
the soundtrack to oblivion, for a
few moments longer the light, then nothing.


Zoo staff were comforting (and restraining)
the distraught parents. Beyond dispute,
a sign clearly warned that if you fed the
animals you would be fed to the
animals. Major beneficiaries of
this policy—and morale seemingly quite
restored after the damage done it by
installation of a ‘close encounters’
window—the lions were roaring lustily
in front of the (packed) observation
chamber. Two keepers seized the boy, ready to
swing him over the rail. ‘I won’t feed the
animals any more,’ he hollered, a quite
transparent lie in the circumstances.

Author’s Note


Previous section.

Next section.