The Murals That Zoos Use to Make Us Forget the Cages
Photographer Daniel Kukla’s Captive Landscapes captures one of the most perplexing ways zoos try to make cages appear less cage-like—by decorating them to look like natural environments.
Obviously the addition of foliage and a mural depicting the savannah don’t fool captive critters into thinking they’re in the wild, but the illusion isn’t for them. It’s for us. That’s why Kukla’s images, though beautifully shot and visually gripping, also are unsettling.
“They’re kind of bleak,” Kukla says of the scenes he’s documented. “I really chose to highlight some of the more bizarre.”
The stated goal of most zoos is wildlife research and public education. For either to be possible, a captive animal must adapt to life within a confined space. Attempts to make that enclosure appear more natural, regardless of its size, help the viewer forget about this part of the arrangement. Even when the animals aren’t in their enclosures, the decorations telegraph their natural habitat to visitors.