A Message from Publisher Mark Lerner: Sometimes not recognized now with the #MeToo and #NeverAgain movements regarding sexual harassment and gun violence is the Trump Administration’s all-out, Undeclared War against Mother Nature, the Environment, and the Health of Planet Earth. This Cover Story in our Welcome to Planet Earth astrology magazine from 1992 by Nancy de la Vierra about the rapidly-decreasing, world-wide Lion population is more an eye-opener now than when it first ran 26 years ago.
"Grandfather, do you hate the white man now?" "No, but now I understand them. I no longer believe they are fools or crazy. I know that they do not drive away the buffalo by mistake or accidentally set fire to the prairie with their fire-wagon or rub out Human Beings (The Cheyenne) because of a misunderstanding. No, they want to do these things and they succeed in doing them. They are a powerful people."
So spoke Old Lodge Skins in Thomas Berger's Little Big Man. Most of his people had just been wiped out by the U.S. Cavalry at Sand Creek. I recalled this particular passage from the movie I saw twenty-two years ago. It left a very deep impression—so much wisdom was manifested by this Cheyenne chief.
While the rest of the country is suffering in the possible death throes of the recession, the Pacific Northwest has flourished. As I watched new subdivisions and industrial complexes gobble up countryside, I couldn't help but feel dispirited by the continual loss of natural habitat. Every time another thousand acres are paved, non-human animals are losing their homes. This is occurring with biblical proportions on a global level as well. In India and Africa, exploding numbers of poor farmers compete for land, putting the issue of their diverse animal species more in doubt than ever. Consequently, it has become apparent that the last pathetic hope for the thousands of species extirpated by this ever increasing problem is—zoo confinement.
I never liked zoos; even as a small child the crestfallen countenances of the inhabitants reached my young heart. R.M. Rilke captured the pathos in his Panther:
His gaze from staring through the bars has grown so weary
that it can take in nothing more,
For him it is as though there were a thousand bars
and behind the thousand bars, no world—
The lissome stride of soundless padded pacing,
revolving in a circle almost nil,
is like a dance of power that embraces
a core containing, dazed, a mighty will.
At times, the curtains of the eye lift
without a sound, and a shape enters,
slips thru the tightened silence of the shoulders
reaches the heart, and dies.
Most zoo officials and directors would have us believe that they are somehow involved in conservation efforts and wildlife protection. They assure us that the animals are comfortable and well-fed. However, as with most of Man's endeavors, the impetus for caging wild animals is monetary gain—pure and simple. Evidence of this can be easily found on identification signs on or near specific cages. An example:
Environment: Savannah and open plains.
This information on the cage of lions—in nothing short of ghetto conditions. Rotten food and feces are the only compliments to this magnificent beast's concrete abode. [In astrology, the sign of Leo is symbolized by the lion.] It is not uncommon for zoo "casualties" to serve as meals for their fellow captives. Many zoos serve totally unpalatable synthetic foods rejected by animals until they are starving.
Knowing nothing pleases the simple-minded paying public more than baby animals, zoo officials breed them without constraint. I wonder how the hot dog-toting patrons would react if they knew what eventually becomes of those cute cubs and kittens when they are older and no longer "cute." Unfortunately, too expensive and space-consuming to retain, they are usually sold to "dealers" and research labs. The dealers sell them to the highest bidder. Their lives, if they are lucky, are ended abruptly by brave trophy hunters on "game ranches." Disoriented, they are let out of their cages, with no chance of esape and gunned down by a paying guest. Fees for this manly "thrill" begin at about $4000 and climb upwards. A very rare and endangered species might fetch as much as $15,000. The fate of animals sold to research labs in unspeakable.
It is our nature, as humans, not to question authority. We accept the misguided idea that those charged with the care of zoo animals are competent. The reverse is often the case. One only has to visit a poorly run facility—they are everywhere—to see evidence of this. I remember being convinced by family members to attend a zoo in my home state. I put up resistance, but was the only dissenting vote, so I acquiesced. The