I have always enjoyed going to the zoo. Modern, well-kept zoos, that is. I feel like a child once more, in awe of Mother Nature’s diversity and creativity. And yet I always notice what appears to be a veil over the eyes of the biggest animals, as though they are looking within, searching for the freedom that they will never know.
Ironically, zoos have become a sanctuary for many species whose very survival in the wild is threatened by humans’ greed. As such, they reflect the complexity (and contradictions) of our world today in which good and evil seem so intricately connected.
These pictures were taken at the Tiergarten Zoo in Vienna, Europe’s oldest zoo. Located in the gardens of the majestic Schönbrünn Palace, it was established in 1865 for the entertainment of the (very) privileged visitors to the famous castle. The animals, longing for the freedom that they had once enjoyed, would undoubtedly not have felt so privileged. It was a cold, grey November day when we visited and the presence of so many exotic species seemed particularly incongruous in such chilly climes.
Although the animals seemed to be well looked after by their caretakers, I was struck by the aura of acute nostalgia clearly visible in the expressions and postures of the animals, as though the tragic dimension of their common fate, the unconscious dream of their lost freedom, (of what they never knew and would never know), could be seen in their blank gaze.
At the end of the afternoon, as night began to fall and the last few visitors made their way towards the exit, the air was suddenly filled with the roars of the lions. Were they sorry to see their audience disappear for the day or relieved to be alone at last? Or calling out for its long-awaited evening meal?