Cabined, cribbed, confined…

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During our recent visit to the zoo at Whipsnade, and in spite of my profound reservations on the keeping of wild and wide-ranging animals in captivity, the majority of what we saw was positive. Endangered species and some that are now extinct in the wild are being studied, producing young and contributing to our understanding of their needs in such a way that their reintroduction and the preservation of dwindling gene pools is possible.

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I was impressed by the huge enclosures and provision for the animals’ welfare and wellbeing. The sea lions, though, moved me in a different way. They are beautiful creatures and, in repose, seem to possess a serenity unlike any other. In the water, they are incredible and move with a fluidity that matches their environment, yet, no matter how carefully their wellbeing is monitored and tended, an artificial pool is not the ocean.

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In many ways, they seem alien to us, flying through the water with the agility of birds and the sinuous grace of creatures accustomed to move through more spatial dimensions than our limited limbs will allow. Yet they are mammals and as such they are our distant kin.

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Sea lions are now an endangered species too. Climate change, prolonged hunting, over-fishing and our fishing methods have contributed to their status, as has the impact Man has had upon the seas and coastlines we share with them and other marine mammals. We have used their meat and their skins throughout our history. They have been captured for entertainment and their intellect harnessed by the military. They have even seen active military service  in several arenas.

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I know that these particular animals provide a chance to educate the young as they ‘perform’ in the daily shows. I understand that the shows challenge them physically and intellectually, contributing a stimulus that would otherwise be lacking in this alien environment. I know too that the presence in the zoo of just a few helps aid the conservation of the many. But, no other species brought home the reality of captivity in quite the same way. The sterility of the pool is not a sea teeming with life, danger and opportunity. It is constricted, constructed and empty and the human presence all too near for the basic instincts of safety and territory. These beautiful creatures call the zoo home and may have been born in these same conditions and waters… but steel and concrete is a very far cry from calling the vast, living ocean your home.

“I had else been perfect,

Whole as the marble, founded as the rock . . .

But now I am cabined, cribbed, confined . . .”

Shakespeare, Macbeth

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About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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15 Responses to Cabined, cribbed, confined…

  1. Whipsnade is one of the very good zoos of the world. You are lucky to have such a classy facility. We have a couple of really great ones, too. Bronx, San Diego, a couple of others. I think these will become even more critical as more and more of the natural world disappears.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Whipsnade was a pioneering place when it was first opened… and it has come a long way since then. Sadly, I think you are right, in addition to the natural decline of certsin species, too many are threatened by our ‘success’ as a species.


  2. jenanita01 says:

    Zoos are sad places, I find and best avoided. No freedom there for anything.


  3. adeleulnais says:

    I so know what you mean Sue. Hopefully, we will see a return to the sea of these wonderful mammals soon, I pray for it.


  4. Eliza Waters says:

    Zoos have definitely come a long way. They may be our only hope of correcting the impact of human-caused, environmental devastation which has resulted in the imperilment of many species.

    *I think you have a soft soft for seals because they remind you of a certain black dog. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. nicolemichellehill says:

    Zoos really do hold a special place. Wild habitats are no thriving like they used to and many species are endangered and close to extinction. Right whales are constantly being tangled in fishing gear and their population is dropping dramatically….as with many other species . Although it may seem like it’s not enough ….chances are those sea Lions are content ; they get enough food and don’t have to worry about predators or other environmental issues they may face in the wild :).


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Whipsnade is an exceptionally good wildlife park and really does go much further than many in providing as natural an environment and as much space as possible. The sea lion house is one of the older enclosures and may well be on their list for the constant improvements they make. They themselves recognised the pool’s unsuitability for the welfare of the dolphins that used to live there. The zoo is also one of the leading wildlife parks heavily and actively involved in conservation.
      Sadly, that doesn’t alter the fact that most of the species they are trying to help are in danger directly because of mankind’s actions. Nor can it make a relatively small concrete pool into a living ocean.
      This was part of a series of articles highlighting the work done by the zoo to preserve biodiversity and protect endangered species, but the sea lions illustrated more than any other creature there that, no matter how hard we try to care for their wellbeing or how necessary our intervention may now be to their survival in the wild, it is still captivity in an unnatural environment. Necessary now, but still not ideal.

      Liked by 1 person

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