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Matt Zalaznick: Names of animals she’ll never see

Matt Zalaznick
Vail, CO Colorado

Children’s books and cartoons are full of animals, and my 2-year-old daughter is learning all their names and the sounds they make.

This may just be panicky, overheated liberal terror, but I wonder how many of these critters will still be around ” or at least still living outside of zoos ” when she grows up.

For one thing, there are a lot of polar bears in books and cartoons. In reality about the most vicious creature on Earth ” the only animal that will kill a human being just for kicks, some say ” polar bears make for ultra-adorable characters.



But extinct animals just aren’t very cuddly, unless you loved last year’s animated summer blockbuster from Pixar, “The Dodos Take LoDo!”

Polar bears are vanishing as warmer temperatures creep north and all their ice melts. I can’t look at the adorable singing bear who stars in one of our bedtime stories without thinking of that same poor animal drowning in the freezing ” but no longer frozen ” Arctic Ocean.

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I can see his cute little anthropomorphized face being swallowed by frigid waters, vanishing from the universe forever thanks to all the steaming chemicals we’ve pumped into the atmosphere.

And consider the quagga, a zebra-like animal that went extinct in the 19th Century. Suppose daddy brings home the beloved board book, “Quincy the Quizzical Quagga” from the library and my daughter asks, “What ‘dat animal daddy?”

“Oh, a zebra,” daddy says.



“Not zebra.”

OK, you got me. Actually, the quaqqa was a relative of the zebra that, because of man’s greed, short-sightedness and extremely violent nature, was wiped off the face of the Earth.

And on the next page, why it’s Quincy’s best friend, Hortense the spiny-winged camelbird.

“What happen to camah-bird?”

See, on this page, honey, the camelbird’s shoreline habitat is being pulverized by unscrupulous developers building condominiums and malls and boardwalks, and they’ve chased away all the snails the camelbird eats so the poor camelbird basically starved to death as a species, honey, and ” hey, this is the kind of inspiring story that gets little kids hooked on reading!

But really, what’s the point of an elephant or a gorilla? What role do elephants and polar bears ” and koala bears and panda bears and spectacled bears, for that matter ” play in my daughter’s life at the beginning of the 21st Century?

What have elephants ever done for our family? OK, they’ve amused us at zoos and have long funny noses, but the costs of health care and college is probably going is skyrocket whether or not there are any Sumatran orangutans or bearded vultures scampering around the globe.

Does anybody really miss the Carribean monk seal? Its absence hasn’t set back the cruise ship industry at all. People still visit the Virgin Islands in droves despite this creature’s absence. The human race is not lacking for cartoon characters without it.

Sponges will never go instict, right? So, the cartoonists of the post-extinction age will have forget about the animal kingdom and look to SpongeBob SquarePants for their inspiration.

Hey kids ” it’s Plastic Spatula Head Jed and his sidekick, BubbleWrap Billy.

In her everyday life, all these animals from faraway palces are about as relevant as dodos and dinosaurs. Perhaps she’d be better prepared for the future reading children’s books in which the main character is a plucky little Bluetooth headset who works hard not to drop any important cell-phone calls.

Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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