Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A few questions for the zoo

Letters to the Editor
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - Commercial Appeal
A few questions for the zoo

There is a specter of gloom over Overton Park. How is it possible that in the 21st century in the middle of America, in one of the last vestiges of old-growth forest, someone or something could deal such a monstrous blow (June 4 article, "Zoo plans treed by protest / Champions of Overton forest oppose expansion")? We need to ask ourselves a few tough questions:

Did we as a city allow things to happen? Is destroying acres of ancient forest still a crime? Did a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 1971 protecting the "perpetual forest" apply only to the builders of I-40? What is the prison term for 139 counts of unlawful felling of federally protected trees? And if no law was broken, how about a moral contract that we, the citizens and the city had with a formerly dear institution? The Memphis Zoo cannot be trusted with other acreage fenced in for "future expansion."

Your letter writer's (June 8, "The zoo that ate the park") poignant comment about the zoo's "imperial dreams" hit the nail on the head. In your article, the zoo president referred to critics as "those who oppose us." The emperor of the Cha-Ching dynasty is not pleased. Ever notice how China deals with trees and nature and popular dissent when it builds a massive dam? It cuts them down, slashes and burns and silences "those who oppose us."

Some of us numerous skeptics back in 2003 wondered if the zoo or the new power-hungry and unapproachable management had lost its marbles: Why would Memphis, the poor sister next to Atlanta, want to repeat that city's financially disastrous folly of committing to a prohibitively expensive panda-lease program? Beyond the obvious, who benefits in what way from all the frenzied big-budget activity?

Maybe the City Council needs to consider its option to cancel its agreement with the zoological society. The zoo itself is not the enemy. Its hard-working employees are not the enemy. But maybe it needs leadership equally concerned with fauna and flora.

Bernhard Meck