Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Animatronic Zoos

 

There’s a great scene in the comedy film Fierce Creatures involving a panda.

Vince McCain, the billionaire playboy put in charge of increasing profits at his father’s latest acquisition, a zoo, reveals its latest addition. Zookeepers are initially ecstatic at the unveiling of a panda exhibit. Then they notice something that raises their hackles.

Zookeeper: “You can’t put an animatronic [robotic] animal in a zoo!”

Vince: “Why not? It gave you a thrill.”

Zookeeper: “It’s not a real thrill, is it? It’s artificial.”

Vince: “Having pandas in England is artificial.”

He’s right. And it’s not just relocation of animals that makes a zoo artificial. Animal lifespans are often shorter in captivity. Practically limited diets and habitats can affect behaviors and even appearances. Having to listen to a wild bird or monkey enclosure every day would certainly change my behavior.

We have the technology to create entirely animatronic “zoo” attractions today. Decades ago, venues like the Houston Museum of Natural Science hosted robotic dinosaur exhibits which were popular. Animatronics continue to be shown … at much less expense than live exotic animals, I’d bet. Even the largest and most predatory “creatures” of this kind can be viewed up close and without spacious enclosures.

Consequently, let’s consider a few questions:

  • In addition to traditional zoos, might there be a respectable market for robotic facsimiles?
  • In lieu of live animals, could robotic replicas serve almost as well?
  • What conditions might favor one or the other?

A typical animal in a zoo is not a pet. You can’t touch it. You can’t play with it. You just look at it. Half the time, it’s asleep, hiding from the weather, or otherwise not putting on a good show. Why not replace it with a robotic stunt double?

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  1. Flicker Coolidge

    There are things that CGI, for example can’t do, that’s why we know they’re CGI. These things have bothered me for decades, ever since I saw a lemon detergent commercial and a woman holding a plate and I knew there was something wrong with the plate, and it turned out to be a CGI plate that then showed the woman’s smiling face in the reflection.

    I was a kid the first time I saw a cassowary at the Bronx Zoo. It was marvelous. Prehistoric, huge for a bird. The way it walked and stalked and looked around. It’s glaring eye. It’s dirty-looking sagittal crest. It was incredible. Except there it was.

    When they’re all robots, where’s the mystery and the marvel? And what stops us from knowing zoos can be simply creating something close but not quite the same? Or new creatures altogether? My zoo will have the world’s first captive unicorn pair.

    • #1
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:08 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. Robert E. Lee Member
    Robert E. Lee Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Aaron Miller:

    Animal lifespans are often shorter in captivity.

    Typical short-haired common cat has an average life span of 3-6 years in the wild and 20 or so in-doors (world record is 36). 

    Now a house cat is a tiger in mind only, but this is not to say tigers can’t be properly kept healthy and happy in captivity, they just usually aren’t.

    I am in favor of keeping animals in natural-like habitats for conservation and research, znd reserving zoos for animals who are damaged or otherwise unable to fend for themselves.

    • #2
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:10 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  3. Flicker Coolidge

    Robert E. Lee (View Comment):
    I am in favor of keeping animals in natural-like habitats for conservation and research, znd reserving zoos for animals who are damaged or otherwise unable to fend for themselves.

    One of my most exhilarating moments was driving through Lion Country Safari. We stopped in the lion pen and I rolled down the window. And there was a majestic lion there staring at me. And there I was with nothing between me and the lion but my wife in the passenger seat. I wish I had a picture.

    Seriously though, at the same place they had Chimp Island, a hill surrounded by a moat. (Chimps are too dense to swim.) I think it was far better than cages.

    • #3
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:16 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I love the idea. Let animals live in presereves and let us see realistic enough AI driven ones in 20 years. 

    • #4
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:20 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Henry Racette Contributor

    Aaron Miller: Even the largest and most predatory “creatures” of this kind can be viewed up close and without spacious enclosures. 

    Come on, Aaron. You know this is a bad idea. It didn’t work with Yul Brynner.

    People are going to die.

    • #5
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:27 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  6. Flicker Coolidge

    And I’m sorry. I still keep seeing Jim Carrey coming out of a rhinoceros.

    • #6
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:31 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Robert E. Lee (View Comment):
    Robert E. Lee  

    Aaron Miller:

    Animal lifespans are often shorter in captivity.

    Typical short-haired common cat has an average life span of 3-6 years in the wild and 20 or so in-doors (world record is 36).

    I originally intended to note that wilderness is brutal and many animals of short longevity in zoos would simply be eaten or die of disease/starvatiom in the wild. Capturing animals, like hunting them, requires moderation and respect. But zoos are fine. 

     

    • #7
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:31 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Flicker (View Comment):
    One of my most exhilarating moments was driving through Lion Country Safari [….]

    I’ve driven through Arbuckle and a couple other safaris here in America. Ostriches pecked at their reflections on our tinted windows. A giraffe stuck its head inside the passenger window to steal some feed in a bucket. A bull licked my sister with its big blue tongue.

    You won’t get experiences like that from robots. 

    On the other hand, you won’t get run down by a warthog, as happened to some ladies at an open zoo here recently.

    • #8
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:36 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller: Even the largest and most predatory “creatures” of this kind can be viewed up close and without spacious enclosures.

    Come on, Aaron. You know this is a bad idea. It didn’t work with Yul Brynner.

    People are going to die.

    All part of the show.

    • #9
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:37 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  10. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator

    Aaron Miller: Animal lifespans are often shorter in captivity

    No, they’re generally longer, given the prevalence of predators and the lack of veterinary care in the wild. 

    • #10
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:37 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If it’s not live animals I think you just put on a VR headset and watch them that way. Why even have a physical zoo?

     

    • #11
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:40 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Randy Webster Member

    • #12
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:43 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Flicker Coolidge

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    If it’s not live animals I think you just put on a VR headset and watch them that way. Why even have a physical zoo?

     

    Ah, yes. And I’d I never have to leave my cubical… ever.

    • #13
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:44 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller: Even the largest and most predatory “creatures” of this kind can be viewed up close and without spacious enclosures.

    Come on, Aaron. You know this is a bad idea. It didn’t work with Yul Brynner.

    People are going to die.

    To quote Jurassic Park:

    John Hammond: All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, NOTHING worked. 

    Ian Malcolm: Yeah, but John, if Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.

    I will say, certain animals could be replaced with animatronics now. Koalas in particular already sleep 20 hours a day due to a diet of mainly narcotic leaves. 

    • #14
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:45 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t foresee going to a facility, dealing with traffic and parking, and standing in line just to look at fake animals.

    I might send a robot, though.

    • #15
    • February 2, 2019, at 5:51 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  16. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    People go to art museums stuffed with bad “art” and pretentious commentary. Why not a “zoo” that, while lacking real animals, offers twice the variety in half the walking space, thanks to savings on upkeep?

    Incidentally, the last zoo I visited kept a velociraptor statue in the middle of a small pond, between the tigers and camels. The alligator didn’t move an inch either, but that’s probably because he ate a compy.

    • #16
    • February 2, 2019, at 6:13 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Why have zoos at all?

    • #17
    • February 2, 2019, at 6:20 PM PST
    • Like
  18. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    There are animatronic zoos already throughout the Nation…. Chuck E. Cheese. 

    • #18
    • February 2, 2019, at 6:20 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. Flicker Coolidge

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    People go to art museums stuffed with bad “art” and pretentious commentary. Why not a “zoo” that, while lacking real animals, offers twice the variety in half the walking space, thanks to savings on upkeep?

    Incidentally, the last zoo I visited kept a velociraptor statue in the middle of a small pond, betwen the tigers and camels. The alligator didn’t move an inch either, but that’s probably because he ate a compy.

    You mean twice the variety found in nature?

    • #19
    • February 2, 2019, at 6:22 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Flicker (View Comment):
    You mean twice the variety found in nature?

    Imagine the cost of capturing, licensing, sheltering, feeding, and otherwise arranging for a tiger. Or you could build and maintain a stationary but animated robot replica of a tiger. 

    If the latter is as much cheaper (long term) as I suspect, then the place could afford a second robot. It could be another tiger or it could be a jaguar, a lion, or anything else.

    It could even be a recently extinct animal; like a Tasmanian tiger, an Irish elk, a dodo, or a moa. 

    Plus, a real animal needs space to move around. But you could fill a room with robots that looked the part.

    • #20
    • February 2, 2019, at 6:41 PM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator

     It should be noted that almost no zoo animals are captured anymore; they’re bred in captivity. 

    • #21
    • February 2, 2019, at 6:52 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  22. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    It should be noted that almost no zoo animals are captured anymore; they’re bred in captivity.

    All my favorites were caught by John Wayne.

    • #22
    • February 2, 2019, at 7:17 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. Flicker Coolidge

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Plus, a real animal needs space to move around. But you could fill a room with robots that looked the part.

    Could they eat one another?

    • #23
    • February 2, 2019, at 7:36 PM PST
    • Like
  24. Flicker Coolidge

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I love the idea. Let animals live in presereves and let us see realistic enough AI driven ones in 20 years.

    Could they eat one another? Not that I… care… really much.

    • #24
    • February 2, 2019, at 7:38 PM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Robert E. Lee Member
    Robert E. Lee Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwi7rt-x0Z7gAhXqQ98KHfKQDQgQzPwBegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.usatoday.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Fworld%2F2018%2F02%2F06%2Ffake-tiger-police-standoff-scotland%2F313475002%2F&psig=AOvVaw0HnNTWy-EwSSw2H3FhIzYS&ust=1549251411661651

    • #25
    • February 2, 2019, at 7:39 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    So why have any sort of animal in captivity at all? Dogs, Cats, Birds, Cows, Chickens, etc can all be replaced with virtual or animatronic versions as needed.

    • #26
    • February 2, 2019, at 8:09 PM PST
    • 1 like
  27. Randy Webster Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):
    You mean twice the variety found in nature?

    Imagine the cost of capturing, licensing, sheltering, feeding, and otherwise arranging for a tiger. Or you could build and maintain a stationary but animated robot replica of a tiger.

    If the latter is as much cheaper (long term) as I suspect, then the place could afford a second robot. It could be another tiger or it could be a jaguar, a lion, or anything else.

    It could even be a recently extinct animal; like a Tasmanian tiger, an Irish elk, a dodo, or a moa.

    Plus, a real animal needs space to move around. But you could fill a room with robots that looked the part.

    Truth be told, you could just make one sort of amorphous four-legged animal, and we could just imagine what the real animals looked like.

    • #27
    • February 2, 2019, at 9:28 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Paul Erickson Member

    I don’t like it. Slippery slope. Today it’s animatronic zoo animals. How long before someone comes up with animatronic sex partners?

    Oh, wait . . .

    • #28
    • February 3, 2019, at 4:56 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  29. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OK. I live on a farm, so my life is, in some ways, very “organic.” Therefore, I have to ask:

    Would they poop “animatronic” poop? Would it smell (authentic)? Would it stick to your boots, and could you wipe it off? Would you have to employ animatronic people with animatronic shovels to clean it up? Would it be biodegradable? Is there such a thing as “animatronic fertilizer?” For growing animatronic plants?

    What’s the opposite of animatronic? Inanimatronic? Is that the same thing as what used to be called “real?”

    These are all the thoughts that are running through my head.

    Carry on.

    • #29
    • February 3, 2019, at 5:41 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. Robert E. Lee Member
    Robert E. Lee Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Paul Erickson (View Comment):

    I don’t like it. Slippery slope. Today it’s animatronic zoo animals. How long before someone comes up with animatronic sex partners?

    Oh, wait . . .

    On the upside you wouldn’t have to worry about alimony. Yet.

    • #30
    • February 3, 2019, at 6:44 AM PST
    • 2 likes

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