I’ve helped manage and care for a wide assortment of wild and domestic animals, big and small, over the course of my career. There is a HUGE amount of paperwork, documentation, and inspections involved in having captive animals. It is, frankly, a gigantic pain in the ass, and the animals are healthier and receive better care because of all the annoying, complex rules. That’s why the Ark project set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head.Evidently, Ham has scaled back the number of animals in the exhibit, dropping the plans for exotic species. Given that this is an amusement park and not a "real" ark, this is a good thing. There is something deeper and more disturbing about this whole endeavor, though, that she touches on:
Keeping animals in captivity is really, really difficult. By gathering animals together in an artificial environment you concentrate all the poop and pee, and just make it easier for diseases to rapidly spread. (Got a kid in daycare? You know exactly what I’m talking about.)
As caretakers we have an ethical duty to provide captive animals with the food and environment they need to stay healthy. Doing that takes specialized knowledge. If you have raptors or game birds, they can get bumblefoot just from the wrong kind of perches. Feeding an imbalanced diet, or just not noticing a raptor is off its food, can tip a bird into a metabolic crash. Ducks can get a fatal type of herpes that spreads rapidly, despite our best efforts.
But the fact that how to house and care for their animals is the LAST part of their planning process — a plan to build what is supposed to be a historical artifact made specifically to hold animals — says a lot.
This is an attraction that exists to promote a religious message. It’s not about animals at all. The welfare of the animals and their biology is less important than their ability to reinforce a religious myth.I once listened to a lecture by Tony Campolo, How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshiping Nature, in which he lamented the fact that, as Christians, we had ceded the care of the planet and the practice of good ecology to largely secular organizations and had attained a reputation of apathy with regard to these matters. Now we find that the creators and designers of the Ark Encounter are no better than those that came before. I cannot find it now (help?) but I saw an interview with a city councilwoman in which she stated that there was little reason to enact conservation legislation since the earth was only six thousand years old and would not be around much longer. These sorts of things make Christians look irresponsible and ignorant.
This isn’t a new issue for creationists. The Museum of Creation and Earth (formerly run by the Institute for Creation Research, and not connected to Answers in Genesis) was recently denied membership in the San Diego Museum Council, in part because of “their animal care and the protocol and care of their exhibitions…a lot of areas that were not in line with membership guidelines.”