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New Epic Release: Zoochat and Me – The Story Unfolds

Discussion in 'Zoo Cafe' started by Baldur, 7 Feb 2012.

  1. Baldur

    Baldur Well-Known Member

    6 Feb 2008
    Following a rising disgust with how Zoochat had evolved (in the absence of the administrator and the lack of authority given to the moderators to control the menace in his absence) I logged out one day in June 2011 and vowed myself never to return.

    Even so, I did keep lurking throughout the summer (Zoochat had gotten me hooked in the course of my three years) until one day in September when I decided enough was enough and I wouldn't even lurk from then on. The second trimester of my master's course was also about to start and I didn't want it to suffer for Zoochat in the same way as the first trimester had done to some extent. But I did decide to visit again in January 2012 to see if my feelings towards the forum would have changed and then make a decision as to my future, if any, here.

    I kept by the vow and didn't even lurk until January. Then I logged in and had a look around. Not much seemed to have changed. I even responded to two 'new' messages (I assume that the senders probably had stopped expecting a response at that point) that I found in my inbox and logged out again.

    I have logged in every now and then and lurked in between but always resisted contributing. It may seem odd but at times the following thought did enter my mind:

    'I wonder if anyone here has noticed that I'm no longer contributing, let alone misses my presence here?'

    I got the answer a few weeks later when I came across this thread:

    I would be lying if I said it didn't touch me that over 2000 posts and 6000 photos had resulted in at least someone missing me. I enjoyed reading the thread over the next days and with every new poster mentioning my name, I got a greater desire to return.

    Until I reminded myself of why I left Zoochat in the first place.

    Snowleopard and Toddy told you the short version of my story but here is the longer (much longer) version, told first hand.

    I decided not to create any drama about my departure; it was my decision and with over 3000 members, one would hardly be missed. I decided this not least because a few years ago a current certain member left Zoochat for a while, but before he did, he started a thread called 'Why I'm quitting Zoochat'. In a fashion too common for online forums, not just Zoochat, the thread went up in flames and was locked. I didn't want that to happen in my 'case'.

    I left for two main reasons.

    I got uncomfortable with how some of the values I try to live by in real life would vanish upon going on Zoochat

    There is an Icelandic proverb saying 'The wiser man always backs out' and my mother would cite it to me all the time when I was growing up. I was emotionally unstable for much of my childhood, teen and early adult years. I would lose control of my temper all too easily, argue and get upset; almost always for little or no reason. I have some memories which I would pay for being able to get rid of for good.

    However, all that has changed in the past few years, with greater self-confidence, maturity and social ability following my love of travel and of living abroad from Iceland. Now 31, I'm a different person to the one I was when growing up.

    I try my best to think positive thoughts all the time, smile, be friendly and open to people; my experience is that I usually get it back double. I avoid confrontation and argument as much as I can; indeed the tension makes me feel uncomfortable and bad.

    If I am to waste energy on arguing, it has to be for a good reason, because I believe that it will lead to something better. Arguing with someone because he or she has an opinion different to mine so that I may end up as 'right' or to 'win' is just not enough (I would be a terrible soccer fan; their weekends are ones of hot discussions/arguments with opponents and fellow supporters alike, without it leading to any changes in or for the given team). I prefer to sort things out through easy-going discussion.

    That is me in real life. But I would often be different on Zoochat.

    I regret entering the 'Fossadude' debate (I should have realised that the person was either a kid or someone short of something vital) and the 'Ilovetigers86' debate (that person no doubt had mental problems) and also lesser confrontations with the likes of BillyT and Dicerorhinus.

    I had a private war with Zebraduiker/Charly/Tarsius/Beaker/Fuzzball. I regret how I let this extreme eccentric (I will not post his name but it should be known to you if you have ever attended the zoo collectors' fair) go on my nerves.

    I did publish his name in one thread out of spite after reading one of his comments in which he was only trying to pick a fight. He doesn't want us to know who he is but does not realise that many do. He might realise it though; for he keeps opening new accounts; but he doesn't realise is that, as a leopard cannot change its spots, his odd English, humour and obsessions in zoo subjects (the Berlin Zoo director and Gerenuk for instance) he leaves a trail of hints like a caterpillar. I realise I broke a Zoochat rule by publishing his name but this was what it had come to. He first tried to threaten me through a PM but my inbox was full so it didn't get through. Then he reported the post and SIM removed it.

    His 'poetry' on the death of Knut were the lowest and to this day I wish that I hadn't let him get to me like that. I lost control of myself on that thread while in life I would have walked away. I'd rather not apologise to this creature from the undergrowth, I'd still like to say (he'll see this next time he pops his head in to pick a fight): 'You were not worthy of my time, energy or patience'.

    I'd like to say that I don't care if everyone else argues or disputes. That's life after all and spices things up. What I'm displeased about is that I did something I would under normal circumstances not do. It has only to do with me, not you. So carry on guys!

    Almost total loss of interest in zoos

    I lost my interest in zoos in 2011. I suppose you think it couldn't happen to you but so too did I think at the start of 2011. Here is the story for the few who are still reading:

    I moved to Scotland to join a master's course at one of the Edinburgh universities in January 2011. Not only was I excited about getting away from Iceland, I was also excited about being able to use Ryanair to visit zoos all over Europe cheaply.

    I did go up in the air with Ryanair, but and before I knew it, my interest in zoos had vanished into thin air.

    By spring I had done three zoo trips outside of Scotland:

    1) London and surrounding area (Colchester, RSCC, Howletts, Port Lympne, Whipsnade)

    2) North of England (Chester, Blackbrook, Twycross plus some in the Cotswolds and Midlands). I did this trip with Zoogiraffe. For those who only know him on this forum, let me tell you that he is much more pleasant in person than he comes across online!

    3) Baltic States (Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, Klaipeda) - I have many photos from this trip which I had planned to upload here but lost my interest in zoos before I got it done.

    I also visited Scottish zoos of course. I bought a RZSS membership almost as soon as I was in Edinburgh and visit the zoo once or twice a month to start with (but I never got up to the HWP). I lived only a 30 minute walk away; the first time in my life that I had a local zoo.

    I attended many lectures on nature conservation and ecotourism. I also had numerous conversations with both my lecturers and fellow students; all of whom seemed a lot more 'green' than me and more travelled in the wild (I have travelled a lot but focused on seeing the wildlife in zoos).

    When asked about my hobbies, I told them it was zoos AND wildlife. They said they shared my interest in wildlife but would rather see it in nature than in a zoo. However, they expressed their views politely and so did I when I explained that I believed zoos had a purpose. There was never any confrontation and it was not like I had I had joined the Born Free Foundation. I do know that a few of them are animal activists but they are mostly normal and at most members of Greenpeace, the work of which I support myself).

    Living in the UK gave me access to cheap second-hand DVDs and books, through both charity shops (which we have almost none of in Iceland) and Amazon (while ordering to Iceland means high shipping costs, VAT and customs charges). During my year in Scotland I actually managed to purchase more books than I could bring home with me in December and had to leave a few. I also bought many Attenborough DVDs and would spend many happy hours reading or watching my purchases in my tiny but cosy student room on Haymarket Terrace, just up the road from Edinburgh Zoo.

    Somehow I felt I had began to change. The trips to Edinburgh Zoo became fewer and fewer and when I did go, I noticed something was missing. The old sparkle was just not there any longer. I started by visiting once or twice a month but then one day I realised that I hadn't been for two months and didn't care. The RZSS card stayed unused in my wallet for much of the autumn.

    I visited the Five Sisters Zoo and Blair Drummond Safari Park in August but somehow totally failed to have the slightest passion for what I saw there.

    The upcoming giant pandas would often feature on the cover of Edinburgh Evening News and other Scottish newspapers. I would see them when I would go out to buy food and occasionally buy them, but the thought of the pandas about to come turned me on almost as much as the thought of sleeping with a woman would turn Elton John on. I did go to see them though, the day before I left Scotland, but only because I felt I 'had' to, not so much because I was dying to, unlike many others.

    I suppose we all have a story of how we became interested in zoos, but mine might be among the most interesting ones as I grew up in a zoo-free country (not Germany at least) and I only got to see one zoo or so a year (if I was lucky) until 21 when I finally got brave enough to go abroad on my own (all previous zoo visits had been parts of family holidays). For several years I would make one major zoo tour a year but see no zoos in between. Those would be to Europe mainly as well as one to the US (until my second trip in 2010) and in 2007 I saw 25 zoos in Australia and Southeast Asia too.

    I had no books and almost no other zoo material when growing up (although relatives would occasionally bring me guidebooks when they returned from abroad) and I really didn't until eBay came along (again, we don't have the charity shop culture Britain and many other countries fortunately have).

    I would get to know more and more zoo-enthusiasts as the years passed. Although I miraculously got to know a one or two of them online in 2000, it was my attendance at the collectors' fair in London in 2001 that changed everything. Before I had thought I was the only person in the world interested in zoos, but it was only when Zoochat came along many years later that I realised we were so many.

    I will always be grateful to Zoochat for the great people it introduced me to. I will also be grateful to Zoochat for introducing me to the people I had these confrontations with as it made me realise how fortunate I am to be me, not them. I hope that I will be able to stay in touch with the former group; even if I realise that with the shared hobby no longer being present on my side, some friendships are almost bound to die. A few persons have promised me that they will keep in touch, but I haven't heard from some others, and I suppose I know the reason.

    I'm conducting my final research project towards the MSc degree now. It is on the quality and potential of wintertime whale-watching in Iceland. It is due in late April and after that I'm free! (no PhD for me thanks!)

    I have many ideas for the future. Spending six months volunteering in Africa is one (humanitarian aid; for volunteering with wildlife is way too expensive) or do a year of tour guide training in Svalbard is another. In effect my brain is brimming with ideas (too bad my wallet is not as rich) of what doors the degree may open. I might end up in any of the following: Wildlife Tourism, Ecotourism, Pro-Poor Tourism, Development or Humanitarian Aid.

    It is sort of ironic that it was only after I left Zoochat and lost interest in zoos that another Icelandic member joins the forum. All my life I thought that I was the only Icelandic zoo enthusiast; but now someone using the name 'Bjarki07' has joined and uploaded some pictures from the Reykjavik Farm Zoo. 'Bjarki' is an authentic Icelandic name and he gives his location as 'Reykjavik, Iceland'. A year ago I would have made contact. Now? I don't know. What could we have in common?

    To end this on a light note:

    Even if my Zoochat days are over, I will continue to lurk, partly because you don't teach an old dog to sit and partly because I'd like to keep an eye on some favourite posters. They include but are not limited to:


    Brimming with professional zoo exhibit design experience, it would be a full time job if he were to comment on every exhibit design fantasy that is posted here. His were among few views that I would always take seriously when came to exhibit design chat. In case you don't, have a look at the following website and see if it changes your mind:

    Zoo Horticulture Consulting & Design


    Extraordinarily intelligent, well informed and argues well for someone only in his early 20s. We get on well but perhaps the shared Nordic idendity has something to say there. I did sometimes wonder if I could have become more like him, if I had had access to the same resources (online and in print) when I was his age, let alone access to zoos.


    Even if every drop of passion I put into all my posts were put together, it would still come nowhere close to the passion that shines from most of his. His views often feature a very strange mix of a child's naivety and an adult's critical mindset. I might admit that once I didn't like Snowleopard at all. But that was before I befriended Scott, the man behind Snowleopard.

    Both of us have this ability to write e-mails the length of a textbook and we continue such mammoth messages from time to time, even if our old shared passion is no longer mine at least. One day I'd like to visit him in British Columbia and might try to persuade him to take me across the US border to his beloved Woodland Park Zoo. Snowleopard, how about it?

    Tim May

    While a brilliant man (mathematician by education) and one of incredible knowledge on zoos and zoology, he is also one of more thoughts than words. However, same applies to his words as his posts: they are fewer than those of the average one but contain all the more of note.

    Tim was my company at Whipsnade last year along with another friend. I'm convinced that his was the best guidance around the historic place that I could have asked for. He knows every knock and cranny of Whipsnade; what has been kept, where and when; whereas Whipsnade's own guides probably don't know anything that happened more than two years ago.

    During our Whipsnade visit, we stopped at one of the cafes. One of the subjects while feasting on our chips was the guts that some of the members here seem to have, but only because of their anonymity. I told him that I admired him for using his full name as username (he takes it one step further than me, I 'only' disclose my first name and face) and his answer was: 'Why not? I have nothing to hide'.

    Sooty Mangabey

    How he took on Dicerorhinus in the 'Great Aardwolf Debate' remains with me to this day. His vocabulary and ability with words is remarkable but the fact that he is a teacher of English Literature might explain that. We have met a few times in real life at the zoo collectors' fairs here and there in Europe. I have not been though since 2008 and may never again.

    Gentle Lemur

    Gentle Lemur is another user who writes well. Unless I'm mistaken, he too is a lecturer or teacher of English Literature. I have heard some legendary stories about the size of the camera lens that he carries around Chester Zoo, and judging by the quality of his photos, there is no reason to doubt those stories.


    His posts give you the feeling that he bases them on knowledge and understanding, not just feeling. Through our personal correspondence I learnt that he got to visit the San Diego Zoo frequently when growing up in Arizona as his family liked to vacation in Southern California. He will then have seen many species which younger guys like me can only dream of. I did get to see San Diego back in 2003. Horn and Hoof Mesa was still around and still had some nice things, but probably nothing in comparison to what Ituri must have seen in the 70s, 80s and 90s.


    He became one of my favourite posters early on due to his great effort of scanning his old photos. While many have done the same since, including myself, remember that this was before the great photo purge, when the gallery was control free.

    Regular visitors to zoos like Chester wouldn't hesitate to upload dozens or even hundreds of pictures from the most recent weekly visit, which would look more or less the same as the ones they had uploaded the weekend before. Thus any photo that had something special about it was valued.

    Hix is also good at 'suitable' dark humour and of telling you things straight out without you feeling bad afterwards. I do think it is something of an Australian identity; at least my boss back in Cairns was the same as well as many other Australians I got to know back in my great days Down Under. For those who wish to learn about the notorious phenomenon that Australian humour is, have a go here:

    Australian humour -

    To the very few people who are still reading: thank you and good night!
    Last edited: 7 Feb 2012
  2. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

    3 Feb 2009
    Thank you Baldur. I know we've talked a bit away from the site and I completely understand your reasons. I can say that many of us feel the same way you do on a lot of the issues you mentioned.
  3. zoogiraffe

    zoogiraffe Well-Known Member

    12 Sep 2007
    Middlewich,Cheshire U.K
    This has got be one of the most thoughtfull and well written posts that I have ever seen on here,but I would expect nothing less from you Baldur!
    The only bit I have a problem with is you blowing my cover that I'm not as hard nosed,in real life as I can and do appear on here.

    I'm sure at somepoint in the future our paths will cross again if only if its on facebook,so goodluck with which ever path you choose in life my friend.
  4. Dicerorhinus

    Dicerorhinus Well-Known Member

    24 Feb 2010
    United Kingdom
    Sorry to see you go.

    Glad you enjoyed the "Great Aardwolf Debate"
  5. Cat-Man

    Cat-Man Well-Known Member

    6 Jul 2008
    I feel very honored to have known such an inspirational man, even if it would only be online. I will always miss your presence here Baldur, as will almost every member who has shared in your wonderful post, photo's and your many other contributions to this wonderful sight. I wish to stay in contact over facebook as previously, and i wish you the very best in your future travels. I think i speak for myself, and many others when i say, i will miss you.

    Thankyou, you have enlightened me ever so much over this sight, even if i may never have told you.
  6. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

    5 Jul 2008
    Knowle, UK
    Thank you very much for such an honest, open, and enlightening post. I think this truly is an epic story, and I'm very glad that you're sharing it with us.

    I'm pleased that jbnbsn99 has already mentioned that many of us share a lot of those feelings, and I'm happy to read that you'll still lurk. :)
  7. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

    29 Apr 2008
    Sussex by the Sea

    Interesting stuff Baldur, although I don't believe that anyone can really switch off their interest in anything. I'd like, really, to be able to not be obsessed by football - I loathe all that the game has become - but I can't ever kick the addiction, and find myself drawn back to the over-expensive seats, watching mercenary players hoofing a ball. I believe the same will be true of you and zoos, particularly when friends like Fuzzball remain. Speaking of which...

    How can you quit when this sort of gold is out there?
  8. Javan Rhino

    Javan Rhino Well-Known Member

    15 Jun 2010
    Only met for that one trip down to Cotswolds, but that was a very enjoyable day and I'm honoured to have met you.

    I hope that you enjoy the paths that you choose to follow in the future [maybe zoo visits will become more enjoyable again if they are fewer and far between, that way it becomes something more to look forward to?]

    Either way, I think I echo the majority of us in wishing you well in whatever the future holds for you, and in saying that you will be a highly missed member on here :)

    Good luck Baldur, and kind regards :)
  9. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

    23 Jan 2008
    New York, USA
    It's been a pleasure, Baldur.
    Sorry we haven't met... yet.

    Your posts may offer some inspiration to others who need to learn a bit and now have the means to do it.

    Like you, I find myself more reserved on the Forum. Too much to do to be commenting on everything that floats by. The Internet is an addictive thing and you are saying something important when you recognize that on-line you tend to become someone you don't like. I think perhaps many of us would see something similar in our posts if we looked.
    But I can't say I yet regret any of the pins I've stuck into inflated fools
  10. JBZvolunteer

    JBZvolunteer Well-Known Member

    3 Nov 2011
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    It was nice to see you post again Baldur, ever since I have started to expanding my national viewing into international viewing I have always made it a point to view your picture debates as I feel you have one of the best understanding's on here.
  11. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    13 Jun 2007
    I'm not sure that anyone's ever written such a long post on Zoochat before! I can appreciate both your primary reasons for leaving Zoochat - almost everyone is different online than they are in real life and of course what works in verbal speech doesn't necessarily come across well in written form, and so online forums easily erupt whatever the subject and members; and I think a lot of people get more disillusioned with zoos the more of them that they visit (although I would have thought that would have happened for you when visiting South East Asian zoos rather than English ones!!). And it is true that the control on the forum is rather lax to say the least, with Sim being often too busy with other things to pay much attention to the forum, and I really think there needs to be a quite a few more moderators, and with more power (but not too much!).

    Like Zooplantman I don't "yet regret any of the pins I've stuck into inflated fools" (a very nice turn of phrase) and I'm not embarrassed by anything I've posted over the years, even if it makes me look stupid! If I've posted it then its my fault, and if anything comes back to me about it then I can explain what I meant or agree it was wrong. I think if one is going to participate in forums then one needs to be thick-skinned or at least appreciate that most people aren't deliberately nasty or spiteful.

    I wish you well in all that you take on in the future (and, honestly, the wild side of nature is infinitely better than the zoo side).
  12. Newzooboy

    Newzooboy Well-Known Member

    21 Nov 2007
    Liss, Hampshire, UK
    Good luck with everything Baldur.........

  13. hadrada

    hadrada Well-Known Member

    11 Jul 2009
    Although we never really "met" around the forums,i enjoyed/enjoy looking at your photos and very much appreciate you posting them.

    All the best in the future.
  14. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

    16 Nov 2008
    London, England
    I’m sorry you’re leaving ZooChat Baldur but I understand your reasons. I sympathise with many of your comments and share your frustrations about some of the silliness on ZooChat; however nothing is perfect and I think that the good things on this site outweigh the bad.

    I’ve always enjoyed your thoughtful, perceptive posts which are all the more impressive because they’re not written in your native language. I’ll miss your many excellent photographs too. I regret that you never loaded your photos from your visits to various Baltic zoos; I would love to have seen those.

    We met several times in London, once at Whipsnade and in various European zoos when we both attended the same ZooHistorica event. I always enjoyed our get-togethers. I hope we’ll meet up again in the future; maybe you’ll revisit London sometime or perhaps I’ll eventually have that whale-watching holiday in Iceland.

    Good luck for the future; I trust everything works out well for you.
  15. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

    18 Oct 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    At the end of the day, people change. Your focus changes, your attention gets drawn elsewhere and some things are just no longer as important as they once were. It's normal, and it happens all the time. People come and go.

    While your contributions to ZooChat will be missed Baldur, you will always be welcome here should you choose to come back and visit. I appreciate the suggestions, criticism and compliments received over the years - feel free to continue to do so should you have the inclination.
  16. gentle lemur

    gentle lemur Well-Known Member

    8 Sep 2007
    South Devon
    Thank you for this post, Baldur. I can understand that your interest in zoos has faded; from personal experience I can say that it may return one day but perhaps it won't ever do so. I was flattered to be included on your list of members: you were close to the truth - I recently retired as a teacher, but of Science not Eng Lit (but I was even more flattered by the error ;)). The bit about the photo gear is all too true.
    I started my teaching career as a volunteer in Africa and it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life, so I was interested to read that you are considering volunteering there. It's a big decision and one that needs careful consideration, as I'm sure you are aware. Good luck to you.

  17. Jordan-Jaguar97

    Jordan-Jaguar97 Well-Known Member

    13 Jun 2010
    Burnley, Lancashire, UK.
    Good luck with your life Baldur. We only spoke a few times but your a very nice man.
  18. BeardsleyZooFan

    BeardsleyZooFan Well-Known Member

    24 Jul 2011
    CT, United States
    You were one of the first Zoochatters that I heard about. You always made thoughtful posts and took excellent photos. Thanks for your contributions to ZooChat, Baldur!
  19. mstickmanp

    mstickmanp Well-Known Member

    9 Jun 2008
    California, USA
    It's a shame to see you go Baldur, but I understand your decision. Your contributions were great to the site, so you will be greatly missed.

    Best of luck.
  20. Zooish

    Zooish Well-Known Member

    12 Sep 2005
    Sunny Singapore
    All the best for your Masters Baldur. Thank you for your contributions to Zoochat, and I hope to see you posting again in the future should the interest be re-ignited.