Girls sorting out the world

Rohan Aberdeen

Opal the Orangutan & Friends

No Excuse for Animal Abuse – South African Protesters demand that Brian Boswell release Opal the Orangutan


Opal is an Orangutan, her species is indigenous to Sumatra & Borneo.  Orangutans live in trees, & can be quite social when food is readily available. After 34 years in captivity, and having outlived her mate & her offspring, some people strongly believe that Opal deserves to spend her last few years in much greater comfort than she has in the zoo where she is effectively being stored, & viewed by the ticket buying public.

Vervet monkeys were a problem for my neighbours when I lived in Zululand.  Due to the greenbelts shrinking & being used by poor people as living areas, the local vervets had nowhere to be.  Their natural food sources disappeared as land was cleared to grow timber, and the homeless started snaring them for dinner.  The frightened babies would run off, and we often found the little hairless creatures, weak with starvation.


Monkey Rehabilitation


When trying to get help for them we were advised to shoot them.

The people who dished out this advice were not psychopaths, they were kind animal lovers working at rehabilitating wildlife.  After the shock settled, I asked why anyone who cared for animals would suggest killing them.

It’s all in the cost.  Vervets cannot be collected, hydrated, fed & just released.  They are social animals and depend on the troop for survival. Rehabilitation funds are limited, vervets are not listed as threatened.  Saving and rehabilitating a single one can take years of attention & resources with no guarantee that the troop they need to form with other rescues will accept them, or that suitable space that can sustain them will be found. Worse, the money that would be needed to rehab just one vervet could save an average of 30 other animals.

The world economies are crashing, people are dying of starvation & neglect.  Big business has taken over mass, large-scale commercial farms in an attempt to feed us for profit.  Pesticide & chemicals have killed insects, our ecosystem is collapsing & still populations grow & demand more of everything.

Why save Opal?


Looking at photographs of Opal, I love the idea that she could be released into the wild, or into a sanctuary that can offer her at least some stimulation & comfort.  I will sign the petition because as it is presented, a sad animal is being stored without space to move & things to do & I think she does belong in a sanctuary.  We can’t save the world, but might be able to shame Opal’s owner into improving her conditions.

Social Perceptions


That said, I would not be the first to stone her owner.  34 years is a long time.  A few decades ago, nobody would take their children to a circus, zoo pr park unless there were some large animals to see.  The bigger & potentially the more dangerous, the better!  There were animals in everything from tv adverts, sweet wrappers, biscuits & petrol promotions.  (think Chomp, Iced Zoo, the petrol slogan Put a Tiger in your Tank & the Quagga/Kwagga on the Sasol signs)  There was little thought around animal welfare.  When they performed they made us laugh, so I guess we just assumed they were happy.

Times & perceptions changed.  In response, many of the circus, zoo & other captivity animals were not replaced when they died.  Many of the remaining ones are quite old.  If we are not going to use them for educational/entertainment purposes, then what are the options for disposing of them?

Bigger Picture


I typed that word, disposing, with a big frown – But in some cases that is what it comes down to.  As legislation for keeping animals increases, money to be made from them gets harder.  People will pay big bux to shoot an animal, what will they pay to photograph one?  With social media covering everywhere 24/7, people in countries we regard as being civilised will avoid supporting shows & zoos to avoid starring in a youtube video.  When the money stops coming in, it could mean that there is less funding to care for our captivity animals today.  Now.  Tonight.

It is a great idea to highlight these issues, & to get animal owners to work towards finding appropriate solutions for their legacy animals from decades ago.  The same people should also plan very carefully and consider what, if any, animals they might obtain in the future.  That said, I am concerned that if ongoing concerns close down due to losses before action can be taken, current captive animals could suffer or be euthanased

I saw a very sad pic recently that was taken in Yemen.  Due to the troubles, lions had not been fed at all for weeks and literally starved to death.  Two were barely alive when they were rescued, one was too far gone & euthanased.  News is quiet around the fate of the other.

These matters are complex, but we must face them.  The issue is not limited to a Zoological Garden in Natal, South Africa.  Issues are growing and being highlighted all over the world, but we live in times where the abuse of farm animals is ignored, governments endorse lethal substance testing on lab animals, and  a large portion of the world population consists of individuals who do not know if they will eat tomorrow.  Poverty, lack of land space for wild animals, lowering of living standards, the challenge to feed exploding populations & the broad acceptance for vivisection have desensitised us. The number of petitions & campaigns detailing ever more shocking situations has caused many to ignore these messages & mails. Not because they don’t care, but because there are no real answers, & this hurts.

Do it

I don’t have any answers either, but I am very proud that my sister & my niece stood by their convictions & hit the streets with their placard boards.  It must have been hot & uncomfortable & tiring, but they did it.  They did it for Opal – & they did it for Opal’s friends.  I didn’t, but if you want to join me in signing the petition, it’s linked below.

Well done, girls!  You got another signature for the cause you are supporting, & made use of your freedom & the right to protest.  In many countries this would be illegal, so your story might also remind someone, somewhere, that people have power – VIVA!

Opal’s Petition Link


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