Monday 22 February, 6.30pm, my room
I've just heard a guy on CNN say Tiger Woods stopped the world for twenty minutes today when he made his apology statement. Well, he didn’t stop shit in Bali, because the world continues apace over here. The bustle in Ubud never stops – from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, you have locals advertising taxis, kids playing on the steps, Westerners negotiating the perilous pavements and women walking with huge laundry baskets full of food, clothes, goods and on one occasion, freshly cooked rice, balanced on their heads. They don’t even hold it with one hand, it’s just pure balance. Amazing.
Today I went to the Bali Safari & Marine Park, after fighting my better angel s and deciding fuck it, I want to see white tigers up close. It’s about 45 minutes from here, in Gianyar, but they run a
free shuttle bus back and forth, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately you have to go when they go, which is 11.15am to 4.30pm – not a particularly long day for quite a large park. Still, I saw a good chunk of stuff, including of course the tigers, which I went back to visit three times because they were just so lovely. They also have orange tigers, cheetahs, lions, leopards, ostriches, tapirs, wildebeest, springboks, zebras, hippos, monitor lizards, orang-utans and elephants. I adore elephants, they are some of my favourite animals along with okapis and octopi, so I am always thrilled to see them. But as usual, I felt the conflict of wanting to see these beautiful creatures up close, and feeling uncomfortable with the way they are basically being wheeled out for the tourists. The keepers seemed to be quite rough with them sometimes, which made me very edgy, but then, what do I really know about elephant care? These animals weigh literally tons, and what might seem rough to me doesn’t necessarily hurt them. I feel bad watching all the animals being treated like playthings, and yet I still posed for pictures because I wanted to know what it was like to touch a tiger cub, I wanted to know how an elephant smells up close, I wanted to hold hands with an orang-utan. Does that make me a hypocrite? And more importantly, do I even care? Am I perpetuating a broken system? I try to only patronise companies that make real efforts to promote conservationism and breeding programs, but the animals are still in captivity at the end
of the day. How much difference does it really make? But then again, is it better to let them die out in the wild and do nothing to at least preserve them in captivity? Governments have certainly cracked down on hunting endangered species over the years, but as long as there is still demand, someone will always find a way to create the supply. We can’t stop them entirely, and yes, it’s tragic to think that when I have kids and take them to the zoo, that might be the only place they can see certain animals, but would I rather they couldn’t see them at all and I had to apologise for the oversights of my generation? And who knows, all the captivity in the world can’t breed out years of evolutionary instinct – if they do become extinct, like the Balinese tiger already has, maybe it would be possible to reintroduce them into the wild further down the line, and they may still be able to flourish.
The thing that had me dithering the most was the elephant show. The keepers dress up in costumes and they put on a dramatic show with the elephants, involving music and pyrotechnics and all sorts of stuff. Sounds terrible, right? But the theme of the show is
conservationism. The costumes are those of hunters, and the elephants are trained to play dead. Is it unfair to make them carry out these little skits? Maybe. But isn’t it worth it when it’s part of a greater good? I want to go to the national parks in Sumatra and Komodo and look at the orang-utans and Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. But the payoff of the animals being able to roam where they want means you could spend days in there and never see a thing. That’s great for the animals, but frustrating for the humans, and maybe that’s selfish of me, but isn’t that the reason people go to these places? To admire the wildlife? Isn’t that the reason they’ve been enclosed as protected areas in the first place? Because they are important areas of natural beauty or importance that we all want to enjoy and let our children enjoy?
One of these days I’m just going to write a blow by blow account of my day, you know, and stop this continual deterioration into breast-beating about The Issues. Enough of this. I’m going to go and drink lychee martinis and eat something Balinese.