Vlada Zapolskaya, an employee of the Royev Ruchey Zoo in Krasnoyarsk, specializes in taming wild animals and adapting them to human interaction. Here, Vlada speaks on the importance of recognizing wildlife as equal companions and competent members of our shared ecosystem.
Animals have been a part of my life since childhood and I've always tried to treat them with the same respect and care as people. Now, as I look into the eyes of the domesticated fox Ralf and other animals, I see appreciation and a longing for understanding. At the same time, there's a sort of insight which escapes people as they grow alienated from nature and perceive animals more and more as mascots. For an animal, living in a zoo does not always means confinement – at Roev Ruchey our aim is not to contain but to adapt animals to living in a humanized environment.
Unfortunately, for most animals there is no way for them to return to their natural habitats, and people must realize this and do their best to make their stay comfortable. This requires getting over the fear of animals and realizing that they are neither game nor a source of goods, but competent members of the world in which we live, capable of feelings. They recognize the feeling of fear and reflect it, which is often misinterpreted as aggression. Thus, another side of working with animals is to make people feel more comfortable around them. A therapy of sorts, which can be awarding in other spheres of life. When not in the zoo, I help homeless animals and contribute my time to shelters. Most of them are dreadful, but with the appearance of decent sanctuaries, the situation seems to be improving at last.
It's about time people gathered their wits, otherwise zoos will be the only place to witness wild beasts, as their natural environments become increasingly scarce and wither away. Moreover, current technology can make hunting and the production of animal material obsolete. And even though working in a place like Roev Ruchey brings me peace – a labor of love so to speak – I envision a world with fewer zoos, where people and animals coexist as companions.