People were being moved by a breastfeeding mother’s experience at Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo, but not without some controversy.
Gemma Copeland posted her experience on Facebook, where it was picked up by the Boobie Babies Facebook page. A female orangutan was pictured sitting close to the glass of the orangutan habitat window, staring while the mother was nursing her baby.
“Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears,” Copeland wrote.
“I visited Schoenbrunn zoo in Vienna whilst on a mini-break with my partner and son. We nipped in to see the orangutans at the end of our day who were happily playing in the enclosure, so I went to the window for a closer look and sat down by the window so my lb could see the orangutan who was roughly 5/6ft away.
She then got up, carried a piece of cloth to the window and sat down with me. She looked directly into my eyes then placed her hand up as if to touch my son. I was in awe of this beautiful creature already.”
“My son wanted feeding and as it was quiet I fed him whilst I sat there. The way the orangutan reacted took my breath away she kept looking at me, then my son then back again,” she went on.
“She sat with me for approximately half an hour, kept stroking the glass and lay down next to me as if to support and protect me”.
“I had to share this because my mind was blown. We may be a species apart but breastfeeding connected us today in a once in a lifetime moment that will stay with me forever. I’m also incredibly lucky that my partner caught all of this on video 💕”
More than 37,000 people have shared the story, and many commenters have praised how lovely and moving it was.
While others marvelled at the beauty of the animal encounter, they also expressed sadness at the thought of such a creature being kept in captivity.
Debate erupted over whether zoos are good or bad for the animals they house, as it does with almost every post about animals in zoos.
Just like in most debates, there is a wide range of viewpoints. Some believe that visiting zoos is the best way for people to get to know animals up close and personal.
Some people agree that keeping animals in captivity isn’t ideal, but without this, many animals would perish as individuals or go extinct as species.
Some people believe that keeping an animal in captivity is always wrong.
On this issue, even animal experts are divided.
Moreover, not every zoo is created equally. There is no doubt that many animals raised in captivity would not survive if they were suddenly released into the wild, which is why many zoos have shifted more toward a rehabilitation and conservation model.
However, there is one point on which everyone can agree. Whether you believe zoos are beneficial or harmful, necessary or not, they are largely still around because of how humans have interfered with nature.
The same environment that humans are destroying to obtain palm oil for our soaps and cookies, putting orangutans in danger of going extinct. The same environment that we are all tasked with preserving.