The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 28, 2013

Life of luxurious freebies may not be all that great in the end

OKLA. CITY — Sometimes there’s no accounting for the illogic of animal behavior. Like that time in 1983 when the teenage kid stole two poisonous vipers from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The kid was so determined to provide a good home to the serpents that he hid out on the zoo premises until after closing time. When he came out of hiding, he grabbed the snakes and stuffed them into a plastic garbage bag. On the way home, one of the ungrateful vipers actually struck the enterprising, compassionate teenager. Imagine that. Rather than rejoice at the prospect of moving to a new home where they would be more than just another exhibit, these ungrateful vipers fanged the kid. I guess there’s just no reasoning with a viper eager to push poison into any teenager that offers a helping hand.

I was thinking about the viper story this week when I read the headline about a red panda (a.k.a. lesser panda or red bearcat) escaping from the National Zoo in Washington D.C. (Hey, isn’t that the same zoo where the vipers got lifted?)

For those of you who’ve never seen a red bearcat, they look something like a cross between a red weasel and a skinny raccoon. They’re native to China and parts of India. Evidently, there are only about 10,000 of these cute little critters still living in their natural habitat.

Anyway, on Monday this week, zoo personnel discovered a 1-year-old male red panda (named Rusty) was missing from his enclosure. The zoo staff was completely befuddled. There was no apparent escape route. No open doors, no holes in the enclosure, no ropes or ladders — nothing. This led some to suspect Rusty may have had outside help. Maybe some human accomplice aided and abetted the clandestine escape.

But then, someone pointed out this was not the first time a red bearcat pulled off a baffling escape. Babu, a male red panda, executed a spectacular escape from the Birmingham Nature Center of Birmingham, England, in 2005. He went on to become a British national celebrity. So, male red pandas have been known to plot and carry out breakouts in the past.

According to Brandie Smith, Senior Zoo Curator, “We all know that young males like to test boundaries.” (Sound like any other species we know?)

It might be coincidental or it might be part of a well-devised plan, but there were no security cameras trained on the red panda enclosure when Rusty made his escape. Though the escape route is still a mystery, curators cut back several large tree limbs that might have provided a convenient highway for the break. After all, red pandas are known to be skilled climbers.

Rusty’s escape was short-lived. Once the breakout was confirmed, zoo personnel launched an intensive social media campaign alerting the populace to be on the lookout for a fugitive red bearcat. Someone used a cell phone to snap Rusty’s picture in Rock Creek Park about three quarters of a mile from the zoo.

A posse of crack red panda handlers were dispatched to the park where Rusty was surrounded and captured with a net. By Monday afternoon, he was confined to the zoo hospital for a “checkup.” This “checkup,” according to zoo officials, would take several days. In the words of zoo director Dennis Kelly, “We will not let this happen again.” Sounds pretty final, doesn’t it?

So, here’s the logical puzzle. Why would Rusty want to escape in the first place? After all, as long as he followed the rules and minded his manners, he had everything going for him. His health care was provided at taxpayer expense. His housing was free. His diet was carefully monitored and supplied without charge. He was not expected to work for his room and board. His curators are required to see to it that he is entertained as this is essential to his mental health. All Rusty had to do was behave and be satisfied with his benefits and he could live the life of Riley.

True, from here on out, his keepers will keep closer track of all these movements as additional security cameras will be installed to keep an eye on his residence. But increased governmental surveillance is a small price to pay when you consider the quantum of free benefits supplied to those fortunate enough to be locked up in their zoo.

So why would a bearcat escape from such a peachy setup? Why couldn’t he be happy in captivity? What’s so attractive about life outside the enclosure? Doesn’t make sense, does it? Or does it? I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results