Millions of people every year visit zoos, aquariums, and preservations, but why? Is it simply to see something that we don"t normally get to see in our modern but mundane everyday lives, or is it deeper than that? What do we get out of our encounters with "wild" animals? Jane Desmond suggests, and I agree, that perhaps, in this day and age when the only ocean that most of us encounter on a daily basis is the ocean of cars in the commuter lot or at the mall, we are looking to connect with nature, with the wild, with the animal in ourselves.
"The intensity of public discourses of the natural rises and falls at different historical junctures and exists in complex relation to notions of religion, science, and civil society (147)." As the world has become more industrial and less "natural", as we have become further removed from and less directly dependent upon the land to meet our needs and animals to aid us in our efforts to cultivate it, as nature has become a decreasingly integral part of most of our daily lives and as the novelty of being an industrial and contemporary culture has worn off, we have come to think of civilization and modern society as corrupt, oppressive and fake and of nature and being pure, clean, freeing, and real. We feel trapped in our own cities, in our homes, in our offices and we long to get away, to go outside, and to get back to nature. For many of us however, the closest we can get to getting back to nature is an afternoon and the local zoo. Nonetheless, after a day of watching monkeys throwing food at one another we still feel, renewed, reconnected, and renaturalized. As Desmond says, " animal tourism, sell[s] an experience of the natural through exposure to wild animals, whether or not the particular animals have ever lived in or even seen the mythical wilderness the are tied to it in our imaginations.".
We must consider however that not all experiences with all animals evoke the same feelings or sense of awe.