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Why I Bring People To The Zoo

Why I bring people to the Zoo

After announcing one of my events/classes that bring people to the zoo for spiritual encounters with animals I received an email response from one of my readers. She wanted to know why an animal lover such as myself would bring groups to a zoo. And I realized that I am so caught up in my work with the animals that I have never publicly stated clearly why I do what I do.

Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to write and share your concerns with me, and for offering me this opportunity to explain.

From my reader:

“I was surprised to see this event at the zoo and knowing your deep love and respect of animals, am hoping you can share with me what I might not be aware of. It has seemed to me that zoos perpetuate the mindsets that humans are the superior species and that it is normal to put animals in cages to look at for entertainment. I know Woodland Park promotes conservation messages, tries to create enriching habitats, and that zoos sometimes breed endangered species, but that has felt to me like being punched on the arm and then having the person doing the punching offer me an ice pack. I’ve been contemplating starting a movement to convert all zoos to sanctuaries in the hopes that it would put an end to breeding in captivity except in the case of endangered species, and promote the message that wild animals deserve to live in the wild as a priority over our entertainment.

“I like to learn and expand my outlook, and so I’m curious how you are ‘okay’ with the Woodland Park Zoo and doing an event there, and what I might be missing? I’ve met animal ambassadors at Earthfire Institute and elsewhere, but also the orangutans at Woodland Park who resented being stared at and seemed angry at their situation.”

Rose’s reply:

As a child I was as passionate about animals as I am today. My mother told me that when she would take me to the Philadelphia Zoo I insisted that we visit each and every one of the animals, and that I knew where to find them all.

As an adult I continued to visit, spurred on by a hunger that could only be satisfied in the presence of my zoo animal friends. Eventually I became a Reiki practitioner, and my awareness of energy and the animals began to evolve.

On one visit to the Philadelphia Zoo I had a pivotal experience with Rain, the jaguar in residence at the time—an experience that began to give shape and focus to my work with the animals. As a result of our encounter I began my studies in shamanism, and learned how to conduct ceremonies.

With the guidance of the animals I witnessed firsthand the potential that ceremonies offered for healing on a major scale—healing that the animals and our planet desperately needed.

In 1999 I moved to Seattle and began visiting the animals at the Woodland Park Zoo. And the animals there became my guides and teachers.

Orangutan Hammock, Woodland Park Zoo ©Rose De Dan 2012

Orangutan Hammock, Woodland Park Zoo ©Rose De Dan 2012

Today most of the animals who live in zoos were born in captivity. Nowadays few, if any, are taken from the wild. Over the years, with the patient guidance of the animals, I learned that most of them had chosen to be born into captive situations so that they could function as ambassadors for their wild brethren. It was their hope that by doing so they could help raise awareness and create shifts in how people perceived and interacted with animals.

In the sixty-odd years that I have been visiting zoos I have seen a tremendously positive shift in how captive animals are treated. In addition to supporting the physical needs and health of the animals, the zoos of today invest time, money and energy on enrichment practices to keep the animals mentally stimulated and emotionally content. But that approach is inherently flawed since it is solely based on what has been discovered through scientific studies—it does not take into account the wholeness of being.

With the assistance of the animals and my spirit guides I have learned that animals are spiritual and energetic beings as well. Needs that are not currently met by any zoo that I am aware of since they are not needs recognized nor understood by the discipline of scientific analysis nor the general public whose level of awareness is largely dependent on the educational efforts of the zoo.

I personally understand why people who care deeply about animals may find going into captive situations difficult. In doing my own work around this (which is ongoing) I have found that clearing my emotional triggers enables me to be a clearer channel for the energy and enhances communication with the animals.

Siamang Connection ©Rose De Dan 2013

Siamang Connection ©Rose De Dan 2013

Every animal is a wonderful and complex being with an individual personality, and as such has likes and dislikes. They are as varied in their desires and motivations as people, and have preferences for how they wish to serve and what they like to do, just as we do. And among the various species are unique individuals with the drive and capabilities to be teachers and healers.

Now, imagine that you had all that latent talent and desire to serve, wanted to be more, to be greater than the limited options that are available—that you have chosen to enter this world to help create a new paradigm—and then imagine that the only beings who came to visit or that cared for you were unable to see beneath the surface of the physical vessel that you currently inhabited. Wouldn’t you yearn to engage with beings who saw you as more and who wanted to partner with you for positive change?

When I visit the zoo, with or without students, I visit with intention. I ask how I can support them. I share in their joy and listen to their needs. When appropriate, and with permission, I offer energy healing. And I bring like-minded people to visit, to listen, and to do ceremony with them, as the animals have requested.

Toucan Attention ©Rose De Dan 2013

Toucan Attention ©Rose De Dan 2013

Over time, despite the thousands of people who pass in front of them, the animals have grown to recognize my energy and that of my students. And sometimes that means we get special attention. There is a pair of toucans that reside in the Asian exhibit, and they get excited when we visit. They particularly loved one person in particular, and often came right up to her. I have not witnessed them respond this way with anyone else, which validates that how we walk in this world is appreciated. In the photo I could not get back far enough to get Debbie in the photo with the toucans, but she could have reached out and touched them.

The zoo Animal Ambassadors have chosen to assist us in healing and restoring balance to a world which is perilously teetering on the edge—an imbalance created by how we walk in this world and one that can only be healed by the efforts of people—the animals cannot do it alone. Together we can rebuild the bridge that connects people and animals. Together we can remove the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical barriers that that have kept us separate for far too long. And one day, if we all work together, there will no longer be a need to preserve animals through captivity, nor desire to keep them for entertainment.

In the meantime they need our support. I am proud to serve the Animal Ambassadors—as long as there is breath in my body I will answer their call, but I cannot do this work alone. I bring the people to the zoo animals because these animals cannot come to the people, and because this is what the animals have asked me to do.

Postscript: See what happened the first time students met with the Zoo Animal Ambassadors at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium: Photo Documentary: Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors.

Top photo: Lion Xerxes greets us at Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors at Woodland Park Zoo. ©Rose De Dan. All Rights Reserved.


Learn how to connect more deeply with animals, restore balance to your life, increase intuitive skills, and help heal the Earth with live Reiki and shamanic teleclasses, available worldwide.


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©2013 Rose De Dan. All Rights Reserved.

Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.

Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. This was so beautiful to read Rose, thank you so much for sharing and for all that you do for the precious animal kingdom… gladdens my heart.

    Love and blessings, Amy

  2. Your description of Debbie and the toucans reminds me of a visit we made to the zoo during my master training… I was offering the hippos reiki and hanging out with them, but they would submerge themselves every time someone else came to view them, and come back out of the water when I alone was there.
    Also, when I was a child, my grandmother had a special bond with a tiger at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. This tiger would make a clicking noise ONLY for my grandmother. Even the zoo realized this and named the tiger’s cub after my grandmother!

    1. Hi Christi, what a great story about your grandmother and the tiger, thanks for sharing! I had forgotten about your special interaction with the hippos that time…fun (-:

  3. Hi Rose

    WOW, thank you, what a beautiful article/reply you have written. Two things really spoke to my heart.
    “the animals chose to be ambassadors”
    “How we walk in this world”

    Thank You Rose, your words have really touched me today.

  4. Beautiful Rose, just beautiful!! Thank you for putting into words what my heart feels. I am so grateful!! ✿⊱~

  5. […] Our second class field trip for 5-part series Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors took place on January 18, 2014. This class was inspired by all of my experiences with the animal teachers over many years and is intended to offer guidance on how to hold space in a sacred way so that the voices of the animals may be heard by many (see Why I Bring People to the Zoo). […]

  6. […] I will share with you the basic techniques and exercises that I use before, during and after a zoo visit to properly introduce myself, initiate an interaction or conversation with the animals, and create ceremonies with and for them. I will also be introducing you to specific Animal Ambassadors who have chosen to work with us more in-depth (see Why I bring people to the Zoo). […]

  7. […] I am so grateful for their wisdom and strength of purpose, and that of the countless numbers of Zoo Animal Ambassadors I have spent time with over the years. All the memories evoked by this one photo help keep me inspired in moments when I falter. It reminds me of the deepest wish of the wild animals and the Zoo Animal Ambassadors: that people will meet with them as equals so that we can work together to create a better future for us all (see Why I bring people to the zoo). […]

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