When You Have to Choose Between Best Friend and Wildlife

I have a very good friend since we were kids. We were in the same school since kindergarten till high school. Imagine, 14 years together in the same school! We were in the same extracurricular activity too. After high school graduation, we were not so close anymore due to university activities and mainly because I went to different city to study vet medicine. Instant messaging and Facebook were not so popular at that time. Communication was broken and we did not talk to each other for years.

It was only until 2013 that we kept in touch again. To our surprise, we have a lot interests in common: outdoor activities, diving, wildlife, traveling, adventure, road trip, and many more. When she knew I was working at a wildlife rescue center, she decided to come and volunteered for one whole month. Even when I had to attend ASZWM conference in Singapore for a week she stayed and continued volunteering at the rescue center.

When I was young every time my parents took me to a zoo I always cried when it was time to go home because I wanted to take all the animals home with me. Probably same as mine, my friend’s interest in wildlife had started since she was young. The difference is, she always has passion to build a zoo, which is a reachable dream for her because she’s a good architect and landscaper. So when a few months ago someone contacted her to build a new zoo in my hometown, she immediately agreed. She texted me to join the project and build a new modern zoo. I hesitated and asked her a lot of questions. My main concerns are:

  1. Where will the animals come from? Caught from the wild or from captive breeding? Legal or illegal? If the animals are captive bred I may still support but if they are captured from the wild and sold through illegal trade I definitely will not help them.
  2. How much budget does her client wants to spend for long term management? Building a zoo and getting new animals are neither the hardest thing to do nor the most expensive cost to pay. The real cost of having a zoo is managing the animals and the place. A lot of expense is needed to maintain high quality animal care (good diet, good husbandry, qualified keepers, etc) and of course, the cost of running an animal hospital to maintain the animal’s health is far from low cost. The sad truth is it’s easier and cheaper buying a new illegal animal in my home country than treating a sick animal.

My friend did not know any answer to my questions at that time but after a week she told me that her client had already had over 80 animals in his own house, and most likely are illegal wildlife. So I apologized to her that I would not help the zoo construction. She kept on developing the project and recruited a new vet, who is my high school friend. We talked less and less after that and I feel that I’ve lost a good friend because of wildlife and captivity.

2 thoughts on “When You Have to Choose Between Best Friend and Wildlife

  1. That’s a hard one. I’m becoming less and less a fan of zoos in general. Some do good things but it’s definitely not a sure thing. Even in conservation projects you sometimes see priorities come to the fore front that are more about personal goals and egos and less about doing what’s best for the animals/environment, etc. It’s hard to make decisions like this but I think you made the right one.


    • To be honest I don’t know if there’s right or wrong decision in this case. Since the client has already had the animals, I could justify myself being right if I had said yes because I could help them instead of neglecting them like what I do now.


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