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News » Deep End

Zoo Revolt

Zebra deaths trigger animal uprising.



In an unprecedented demonstration of solidarity, animals all over the world are boycotting Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

“The deaths of Taji and Monty were the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Bonobo Bob, a longtime spokesman for WAFUA (the World Association of Fed Up Animals). “Those two zebras were just the last two in a long line of animals who died under mysterious circumstances while being penned up in the zoo on Sunnyside Avenue. You had Misha the elephant, then Wankie the elephant, then the giraffes Ruth and Kisii, not to speak of Andy the polar bear, who choked to death on a glove, and the poor giraffe Sandile who strangled after getting her neck caught in a fence. I bet she was trying to escape!” News of Taji and Monty’s demise spread quickly through the animal kingdom. “In the old days, we never knew what happened to fellow animals who got carted off out of the forest, or off the plains, or out of their arboreal habitat,” said Bonobo Bob, whose own uncle, a chimp named Jimmy, was spirited away to a zoo in Arkansas, where he was allowed just one phone call a month.

“We had to rely almost exclusively on animal memories, which, except for elephants, is not always reliable. These days, what with your mass communications in the form of the Internet, texting and tweeting, we can keep up to date with all the latest incarcerations, not to mention who’s having health problems, and who’s dying.”

According to Bonobo Bob, no one in either the close-knit zebra species or the extended phylum of chordates had any inkling that the days of Taji and Monty were numbered. “We knew they always dreaded winter—their pleas for thermal underwear went unheeded—and grumbled about the valley inversions, but who knew that they would be snatched away so quickly. We’re trying to keep an open mind about all of this, but it doesn’t look good that the zebras had bloody noses and some signs of blunt force trauma. If you ask me, that looks a lot like Taji and Monty were butting their heads against the fence in a vain attempt to make a break for it.”

Bonobo Bob’s speculation as to the cause of death is backed up to some degree by reports that in the days before they died the zebras were attempting to communicate to zoo patrons their desire to escape. Some visitors swear that the zebras seemed to be tapping out Morse code with their hooves; others claim to have heard vocalizations from the zebras that sounded a lot like “Get me out of here!” (Nobody, however, believes a clearly traumatized teenager from Tooele, who has in her possession a crumpled fragment of college-ruled loose-leaf paper upon which is scrawled, “Meet me at the far gate at midnight. Signed, Monty the Zebra.”)

Interviews with some of the other imprisoned animals lend some credence to the idea that the zebras were eager to escape. Kenneth, the New Guinea snakenecked turtle, told reporters that he had known for several years that Monty and Taji were unhappy in their so-called “Upper Savannah” habitat.

“They were kind of insulted, actually,” said Kenneth. “It was just a pen on the west end of the zoo. It was nothing like the African savannah of their native Kenya. And they were frustrated as hell about the lack of female company. Even though they shared a zebra heritage, they got on each other’s nerves after a while. In my opinion it was not natural to make these guys live together. But that’s the way it is in this joint. I’ve been after the keepers for years to line me up with a snakenecked turtle of the female variety.”

Charo, the longtailed chinchilla who was imported from South America, echoed the sentiments of Kenneth. “We talked about the weather all the time,” said Charo.

“I felt sorry for them, freezing their butts off every winter. With me, it’s just the opposite. I’ve come close to dying several times in the heat. By the way, I get tired of the school kids pointing at me and saying, ‘Look at the funny-looking mouse!’” Meanwhile, zoo officials say they have more pressing problems than the worldwide animal boycott against them. Yesterday, it was learned, Hogle Zoo animals have gone on strike, refusing to roar, howl, hiss, jabber, or engage in monkeyshines of any sort.