’Is the mummy lion sitting on eggs?’
WHOEVER said ignorance is bliss hasn't eavesdropped on the idiocy on display at my local zoo.
There are the parents who insist on ignoring the signs which clearly state that gibbons are apes, and tell their kids to listen to the hooting of the monkeys. It's an easy learning opportunity that's being missed at best, and at worst, wilful ignorance.
Call me a pedant, but it's irritating. Tortoises are pointed out as turtles, geese as ducks. Zoos are strange enough places as it is, with their parallel raison d'etres: Victorian-era throwback of a menagerie teamed with a sad testament to the need for conservation. They're not exactly improved by the presence of the wandering ignorant and their clans, endlessly looking at a screen and taking photos but never actually taking notice of what's going on around them.
A new low was reached at the weekend when a pre-school aged boy was looking at the lions and overheard asking if his dad if the mummy lion was sitting on eggs.
Dad, clearly not equipped with this information in his own noggin, told his young charge he didn't know and tapped on his ever-present phone to consult Professor Google on the matter of big cat gestation.
If zoos are sometimes a damning indictment on our treatment of other species, this visit, it was just a damning indictment on humans themselves.
It used to be a joke that city kids would say that milk comes from a carton, while their country counterparts would probably know the cow by name.
Now, even in situations ripe with learning opportunities about nature, it seems some humans lack basic knowledge about biology and our ecosystem, and are unwilling to engage to learn more. Or at the zoo, parents can't even be bothered to tear themselves away from a phone to read a sign telling them about the species they're lucky enough to be actually looking at.
The very same weekend of #liongate there was a van in the middle of a local park. With an annex full of tables, from a distance it looked like someone had brought along a petting zoo for a kids party.
Actually, it was no such thing.
On closer inspection the annex held several tables covered in laptops. Inside, a Minecraft workshop was taking place with primary school-aged kids.
Not twenty meters from where kids were staring at screens, gumnuts were in full blossom, magpies were warbling and galahs were screeching. There was a whole ecosystem to be looked at, or play equipment to be climbed, but instead some local boffin was loudly instructing the kids to gather round their screens.
Obviously, some parents see no point in prioritising time in nature. They may not have the will or the wherewithal to limit screen time.
Regardless, on a beautiful autumnal day, letting kids loose on laptops rather than the climbing ropes or among the native wildlife seems an odd choice to make.
While guidelines on the government's Raising Children website recommends limiting screen time because it might prevent kids from "developing a wide range of interests" and suggests "making sure your child enjoys lots of healthy, fun activities - both with and without screens", for me at least, there's a new, compelling reason to leave screens behind for a minute in order to take some notice of the world around you.
And that's a morbid fear of raising a kid who completes the journey to adulthood still unsure of whether or not lions hatch from eggs.