Another reason to oppose the “Ark Park”

Animal Welfare.

I have mentioned before that in my current position I’m responsible for the welfare of both cows and captive wild animals.
What I haven’t talked about is that there is a HUGE amount of inspection, paperwork, and documentation involved in having those animals.  It is, frankly, a gigantic pain in the ass, and the animals are healthier for it.

While there are many, many obvious reasons why the Ark Park is a stupid idea, and it’s even stupider to have state funds sponsor it, what I keep thinking is:  “What about the animals?”

That popped into my head when I was reading this NYT story:

“In the interest of verisimilitude, the ark is to be built with wooden pegs and timber framing by Amish builders, Mr. Zovath said. Animals including giraffes — but only small, young giraffes — will be kept in pens on board.

“We think that God would probably have sent healthy juvenile-sized animals that weren’t fully grown yet, so there would be plenty of room,” said Mr. Zovath, a retired Army lieutenant colonel heading the ark project. “We want to show how Noah would have taken care of them, taken care of waste management, taken care of water needs and food needs.”

Oh no they didn’t.
They didn’t really just say that, did they?

“Juvenile-sized” animals will GROW UP.  God will not provide for them–humans have to.
Where will the older animals go?  Will they be sold to game farms for hunters to shoot? Will they be euthanized and made into Arkburgers?
How will a continuous supply of exotic immature animals be delivered?
If these animals are housed in a giant wooden boat, how is it a good experience for the animals to be jammed in an artificial environment with lots of loud people and a bunch of other animals (some of which will be predators)?

Those are just a few of my questions for the Ark Park.

If in fact Answers in Genesis is planning to run a zoo, they should seek accreditation by AZA: The Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  This is an international body of scientists and experts in animal care.  I invite you to look over the (63 page) AZA Accreditation standards for 2011.  Here is the guiding AZA philosophy:

“Animals must be well cared for and displayed in naturalistic settings that provide an educational experience for visitors and an appropriate enriching environment for the animals, including proper social groupings.”

Additional AZA Standards:

“Animals should be displayed in exhibits replicating their wild habitat and in numbers sufficient to meet their social and behavioral needs.”

Is that what is planned for these animals? Hell no.
Young giraffes held away from regular social groupings? Requiring animals that roam open savanna to stand in a stall?
I predict it will take about 2 weeks for major hoof problems to develop for these poor animals.  And that’s just the giraffes.  I don’t want to even imagine what they would do to an ape or an elephant.

AZA also has clear guidelines for what are called “program animals”; animals that are involved in public show-and-tell sessions, including handling by a keeper or the public:

“standards require that education and conservation messages must be an integral component of all program animal presentations. “

Uh, I’m guessing that ain’t happening either.  In particular since there are clear statements that the folks responsible for this travesty don’t believe in global warming, and subscribe to the dominion flavor of biblical interpretation, rather than stewardship.

Of course, this standard could also be a major impediment to AZA accreditation right here:

“4.3. Evaluation/Interpretation
4.3.1. Exhibits, interpretive programs and other education programs should be evaluated on a regular basis for effectiveness, content, and updated with current scientific information.
4.3.3 The exhibit graphics and other interpretive devices should be based upon current scientific knowledge….”

Heh.  But I digress.

I am not a PETA supporter. I eat meat.
But like Temple Grandin, I believe we have an ethical and moral duty to provide animals in our care with a good life.

The “Ark Adventure” is actually going to be an adventure in animal cruelty.


[cross-posted from the Bug Blog, cause I’m still pissed about this.] For the curious: You can see the full press release and press kit here; it’s…astonishing.  And not at all suited to animal welfare.
Here are some highlights from the website:

  • Noah’s Ark: A full-size Ark, built to biblical dimensions, will be located outside the walled city. Guests will be able to tour the Ark and be immersed in the times of the Bible through highly themed scenes and presentations. This walk-through of the Ark will enable each guest to gain an understanding of how it could have been built, and how Noah, his family, and all of the representative kinds of land animals were cared for, and then survived on board for 370 days of the Flood
  • Noah’s Animals: This fun area will provide Ark Encounter guests with the opportunity to learn more about some of the animal kinds that were on the Ark. This area will be similar to a petting zoo, complete with barns, a petting animal area, an open grazing area, a stage for daily live animal and bird shows, and lots of meet-and-greet areas for close-up encounters with unique animals and birds.
  • Aviary: This will be a fascinating walk-through attraction with several viewing platforms inside three types of bird sanctuaries. Each sanctuary will allow guests to get close to the birds in a natural setting. A nearby butterfly emporium will be visually stunning as well.


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. We want to show how Noah would have taken care of them, taken care of waste management…

    The whole “park” is an exercise in shoveling excrement, so a bronze age level demonstration just seems awfully redundant.

  2. I remember reading that they wanted displays to show the animals from the myth, but it’s so foreign to me to think of treating animals like so, that I never realized that they would be planning to do this with real animals, not statues or animatronics.

    That’s the same mentality that people who dump unwanted pets at the side of the road have. Where are they going to dump a large carnivore?

    How much you want to bet they will have a private canned hunt facility for their “best” donors?

  3. Thanks for raising awareness about this. I am so infuriated.

    Although, it is a natural outgrowth of the ‘dominion over the earth’ mentality that their religion teaches.

    Is there anyone who can be contacted about this? At the very least awareness needs to be raised. Before animals get mistreated.

  4. I’m a little confused. Real live animals aren’t going to actually be in the ark, will they? From the press releases, it sounds like the ark will have animatronics or something like that and then they’ll have animal exhibits elsewhere at the park, but then the NYT article says they’ll have young giraffes in pens on board. Could they have meant animatronic giraffes? They said there would be dinosaurs on the ark…

    I think a good way to show how ridiculous this is would be to gather up 2 of each species of land-dwelling arthropod and then somehow release them all in the ark at once to show how it really would have been. I have yet to hear a biblical literalist mention how the ark was crawling in exotic insects.

  5. Clearly these yokels are concerned about their gods ability to advocate for his own version of history. And at least when there were similar collisions of naivety, belief and money in previous centuries a Cathedral, a great work of art, or even a hospital was the end result.

  6. OMG, I hadn’t even considered that they would use real animals! I’m so glad that you’ve brought this up.

    I do take slight offense at the idea that one should have to qualify “I am concerned with the treatment of fellow animals” with “but I don’t support PETA.” Animal wellfare and animal rights are two very separate issues and one can feel compassion (and desire legislation that protects the wellbeing of animals) without being completely insane.

    In any case, someone should send a copy of Wild Animals in Captivity by Rob Laidlaw to Mr. Zovath.

  7. The section of the park where they explain how marine life survived the flood, and how animals like jaguars and penguins made it back to their homelands, should be interesting. Maybe they can save space by simply erecting a big statue of Ken Ham pulling the answers out of his ass.

    @James Fox: Yeah, Europe gets cathedrals and great works of art, and America gets… hideous looking amusement parks? This is totally unfair…

    @scribe999: He shoots… He scores!

  8. I’ve worked at an exotic carnivore sanctuary where the formerly young and cute lions and tigers would end up IF THEY WERE LUCKY. I think we turned away between one and three large carnivores every day. To see these people think they can manage lions and tigers (and bears, sorry, I had to) in a WOODEN structure and maintain a reasonable level of health and cleanliness is just gobsmacking!

    The other disturbing aspect is that this theme park is set to get money (or tax breaks, which amounts to the same thing) from the state of Kentucky. The governor is endorsing this nonsense. How do I get registered as a voter in Kentucky so I can vote against this yahoo?

    scribe999: COTW

  9. They’ll be in for a surprise after they’ve built the ark and start putting animals in, only to run out of room after just a small fraction of all species.

  10. @scribe999 COTW

    @Imrryr: Yeah, Europe gets cathedrals and great works of art, and America gets… hideous looking amusement parks? This is totally unfair…

    They also got crusades, inquisitions, and the dark ages so there’s that.

    @TheEdge: To see these people think they can manage lions and tigers (and bears, sorry, I had to) in a WOODEN structure and maintain a reasonable level of health and cleanliness is just gobsmacking!

    I can imagine. We have three mice in a fairly large cage and it’s not easy keeping that clean.

    BTW, how’s Bono? ;)

    The only thing to say about all this is, stupid people are stupid about a lot of things.

  11. @Grimalkin: Just because someone is a supporter of animal rights, it doesn’t mean that they’re automatically a supporter of PETA. Or that they’re “completely insane”. Just sayin’.

  12. Look, as I understand it, the flood only lasts for 40 days and forty nights, so by the time the animals grow up, it will be long over and they’ll be back on the savannah or wherever they belong!

    See? God thinks of everything!


  13. @Rei Malebario: The rain lasted 40 days, but I think it took almost a year for the flood waters to drain. (Into what, since the oceans must have been full too, I don’t know. Maybe off the edge, since the Earth is flat in this model.) Someone in a comment, probably to one of PZ’s posts, said 370 days or something like that.

    If they started with two mice, by then they probably had thousands. Maybe they fed them to the predators.

    Also, moving goal posts time: They claim that “kinds” are not species, more like genera. Does this mean that Indian Elephants and African Elephants (and Mammoths and Mastodons?) all evolved from some ancestral Ur Elephant in the last 4000 years? Were there only 2 beetles, which have diverged into several million species in the interim? First they claim evolution is impossible, then they proclaim it occurs at unprecedented rates, far faster than the Cambrian Explosion or any other real speciation. Did Noah bring seeds as well? If so, did 5000 year old bristlecone pines evolve from some Middle Eastern ancestral pine cone in the last 4000 years? Maybe the Gallifreyans have been mucking about with time again. I’m so confused! Help, Doctor, we need you.

    Oops, sorry, I’m mixing up my SciFi again.

  14. Momentarily disregarding how ridiculous this whole thing is anyway… I thought that animals back then weren’t “carnivores”? I seem to remember the creation museum displaying something along those lines, somewhere near the children happily playing with the dagger-toothed velociraptor. I’m sure that bit will come in handy when explaining how all the animals lived in sweet harmony on the ark cruise liner.

    I feel like I need a lobotomy after trying to figure out why they get to make absurdities up to make their myth real.

  15. @mrmisconception: Lots of bookstores mix together one Fantasy and SciFi section… Maybe the ark was Bronze-punk SciFi? Not much physics or chemistry, but it did have biology, geology, climatology and naval architecture fiction.

  16. @skylyre: According to the christian myths, all animals (and carnivorous plants, too, I suppose) were herbivorous until the Fall – that is, until Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. At that point, death was introduced into the world, and T-Rexi finally had something useful to do with those big-ass teeth.

    Prior to that, things like smilodons and sharks, anacondas and eagles, dragonflies and wolves, all ate grass. Or coconuts. Or fruit smoothies.

    And nothing ever died. Which probably made the world a bit crowded, especially with rapidly multiplying bacteria. And mice. And mosquitoes.

  17. Maybe mosquitos and bacteria didn’t exist before the Fall?

    I must admit I am completely charmed by the image of an ark crawling with two of every species of beetle. Not to mention keeping them all out from underfoot of the larger animals. If one gets stepped on, after all, that whole species goes extinct. Must have kept Noah and his family hopping!

  18. If they build it out of wood and stock it with animals, it won’t even last a year. Urine and feces will soak into the wood and provide nutrients for cellulose digesting bacteria and fungi. Trying to flush them out with water will accelerate the decay.

    They will probably first stock it with goats, sheep and cows before going to more exotic organisms that cost money to get. They will never even fill up the arc once using 10x more labor than Noah had, let alone keep it running for 370 days at full capacity, the first 40 days during a storm that makes a Cat 5 hurricane look like a drizzle. 8,000 meters (the height of Mount Everest) in 40 days? 200 meters of rain a day? Maybe the animals were too seasick the first 40 days to eat or poop much?

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