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Signage on human cultural beliefs about animals within zoos

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Onychorhynchus coronatus, 14 Jan 2021.

  1. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Human belief systems and folklore towards animals vary from culture to culture and are incredibly complex. Some species are seen as sacred others as profane, some as evil and others as good / heroic, some as good eating and others taboo.

    Signage and displays that showcase how cultures percieve an animal in its natural habitat / range country can be an interesting complement to zoo exhibits which help visitors to appreciate the human dimensions of their conservation or coexistence with communities.

    What are some examples of cultural signage at zoos that you think are particularly good ?

    What is your opinion on this signage? Is it interesting / necessary or superfluous?


    Look forward to reading your replies !
     
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  2. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Conecticut's Beardsley zoo raven Native American signage:
    [​IMG]
    LA zoo Asiatic elephants in Indian culture signage:
    [​IMG]
    Singapore zoo signage on Orang Asli indigenous folklore on the Malayan tapir:
    [​IMG]


    Photo credits to @BeardsleyZooFan , @mstickmanp and @Zooish.
     
  3. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    The National Zoological Garden of South Africa in Pretoria has a number of large, beautifully illustrated info boards highlighting native folklore and fables about animals in their collection. I, unfortunately (and stupidly) did not take any photos of them during my time there, and there are no other photos of them in the gallery, sadly.
     
  4. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    This can be fun, but also poses a question: a visitor can absorb only limited amount of information, what a zoo chooses to teach him? Arguably, folktales about animals are fun as a break, but don't overdo it. Unless, for example, a zoo is a part of a general local nature center teaching also about local indigenous people etc.
     
  5. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing @Kudu21 !

    Thats a shame indeed as I think this is a really interesting idea and I bet that some of these signs documented San beliefs.
     
  6. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Yes, totally agree that it can often be supefluous but I do think it can be fun and interesting and often of educational value to the visitor.

    I think in cases where a zoo is located within a country where there are indigenous populations like Brazil, Mexico and much of Latin America, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa amongst others this can be very important in educational terms.
     
  7. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Signage explaining the theory of the Chinese alligator as the inspiration for the mythical dragon in Han Chinese mythology and culture, Philadelphia zoo, USA:
    [​IMG]
    Sign on the cultural beliefs and folklore surrounding the racoon dog or "Tanuki" in Japan, Kirkley Hall Zoological garden, UK:
    [​IMG]
    Brown teal signage with information on its significance to the Maori peoples, Kiwi Birdlife park, New Zealand:
    [​IMG]
    Morepork signage with information on its significance to the Maori peoples, Kiwi Birdlife park, New Zealand:
    [​IMG]
    Black stilt signage with information on its significance to the Maori peoples, Kiwi Birdlife park, New Zealand:
    [​IMG]Elephant sign detailing an Indian fable about the animal at Conneticut's Beardsley zoo, USA:
    [​IMG]
    Spectacled bear signage detailing indigenous Andean cultural beliefs at Conneticut's Beardsley zoo:
    [​IMG]

    Photo credits @TinoPup , @Macaw16 , @Chlidonias , @BeardsleyZooFan
     
    Last edited: 15 Jan 2021
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  8. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Unfortunately the chinese alligator signage is now gone, as is this exhibit :(
     
  9. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    I’d love to see The Alaska Zoo place their Magpie exhibit near the Amur Tigers and put up a display about the connection of the two animals in Korea Folklore. We have a fairly large and vibrant Korean-American and Overseas Korean community in Anchorage, as well as a large military base where many of the soldiers and airmen have ties to Korea.
     
  10. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Shame about the signage :( as it is generally accepted by scholars that the inspiration for the Chinese dragon in mythology came from the Chinese alligator and I think it just makes for a great and engaging fact to raise / stimulate interest in the species among visitors.
     
  11. dt644

    dt644 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting, I didn't know there would be a zoo with a magpie and an Amur tiger. Magpies are too common birds in Korea. When tigers leave meat, magpies come in exhibit and peck at it, which is the only situation can see tigers and magpies together at the Korean zoo.

    I think explaining in connection with culture can help people to treat animals as more equal beings than just 'things to see' or 'things they can bullying'. Of course, few people are interested in such explanations at Korean zoos.

    Koreans like tigers more than any other country's people, but there are few signs in Korean zoos that describe culture about tigers. For Koreans today, real tigers are just dangerous animals, and zoo tigers are treated as "sleeping nocturnal animals" or even "animals that have to wake up from sleep by visitors throwing objects and shouting".

    Even if many Koreans only like tigers in culture, not real tigers, shouldn't treat real tigers like that who have to live their whole lives in the zoo's narrow exhibits. It's bitter think.
     
  12. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your comments @Pleistohorse and @dt644 !

    Can you guys explain to me what this folklore about the connection between the Amur tiger and the magpie is in Korea?
     
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  13. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    More examples of these kind of displays at zoos.

    A permanent display on socio-ecology , socio-cultural issues pertaining to conservation of biodiversity in Madagascar at Apenheul :
    [​IMG]
    Malagasy / Masikoro "Havomanga" pole at Apenheul:
    [​IMG]
    Totem poles in Vancouver aquarium, Oregon zoo, :
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Photo credits to @snowleopard, @Orycteropus
     
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  14. dt644

    dt644 Well-Known Member

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    The connection between magpies and tigers in Korean culture is deeply related to the art styles that were popular in the 17th and 19th centuries. At that time, paintings by civilian unnamed artists were popular in Korea, which Korean folk arts are called 'Minwha" today, and many paintings were included magpies, tigers or leopards, and pine trees in one paper. this paintings are called 'Hojakdo'(호작도) or 'Kkachi horangi'(까치호랑이).


    100138_29554_4629.jpg

    Various kinds of Hojakdo.

    The reason why the some painting is in leopard, not the tiger, and also some tigers has the stripes of the tiger and the spots of the leopard together is because Koreans thought tigers and leopards were same animal, and called tigers and leopards same name, "Beom."
    source of picture is Korean internet news.​


    As many artists have painted Hojakdo, so the styles of all Hojakdo are different, and there are many interpretations of this, but the best-known interpretation of Hojakdo is the resolution of the common people's discontent with those in powerful man.

    In this interpretation, magpies represent the common peoples and tigers represent the powerful. In most paintings, magpies sit on pine trees higher than tigers, shouting to tigers, and tigers look angry at magpies, or tigers are depict comical and foolish. In other words, according to this interpretation, Hojakdo is a picture describe this: weak, but clever magpies are teasing strongest of all animals, but foolish tiger.

    This interpretation is related to the times of the era when Hojakdo was popular. The Joseon Kingdom, which was on the Korean Peninsula at the time, was very confused in the 19th century when the king's maternal relatives took power and engaged in political activities freely, and there were many revolts. Therefore, many common people were satisfied by depict themselves for magpies and powerful people depict to foolish tigers.

    And also, there is a Korean fairy tale that shows this point of view. to sum up as follows: A man saved the tiger from fell in pit trap, but the tiger tried to eat the man. Many animals and trees also said that tigers could eat men, but a magpie or hare said they had to recreate the situation at the time. So the tiger was go into pit again, but man doesn't help tiger again. So, the man was save his life by clever magpie or hare.



    PS01001001_ssu000_2019_0925122130437_ssu015313-000-90000.jpg

    A painting of Korean mountain god. Collection of the National Museum of Korea.

    The painting of mountain gods is called "Sansindo,"
    most of the mountain gods in the sansindo are with tigers.​


    But that doesn't mean that the tigers of Hojakdo have only negative meanings. Although the situation at the time made the tiger a symbol of incompetent power, Koreans regarded the tiger as the king of powerful beasts, and servant, guard of the mountain god or the mountain god itself. Like they depicted powerful people as tiger.

    And people thought magpie was also servant of mountain gods, and also thought in places where mountain gods cannot go directly, gods sent magpies to deliver good energy. So people believed that magpies were birds that brought good energy, and in Korea, magpies were 'tooth fairy.'

    Therefore, Hojakdo also meant that the drive out the bad energy by tiger's strong energy, and bring in good energy by magpies. From respectful beings with strong power to bloodthirsty ones to foolish ones, tigers in Korean culture are described as very complex and three-dimensional. I think can make many books just by just collecting these stories.
     
    Last edited: 15 Jan 2021
  15. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    I have the print of the one in the upper right. It’s my favorite of all the art prints I have in my house.

    I’ve tried numerous times to capture a photograph of the wild Black-billed Magpies that visit the Tiger exhibit in the same frame and you can find a couple of efforts in the Alaska Zoo Gallery.

    In my imagination...I like the Alaska Zoo to place an Aviary with their rescued Magpies near the Tiger Exhibit (maybe at the bottom of the exhibit near the fence or, better, up on one of the ends of the elevated boardwalk), alongside a few panels (one of which would display a the top-right version of the folk painting) telling the story of the wild Magpies and Tigers, and the story of the Magpie tricking the Tiger to recreate the scene of his rescue.

    In addition to the natural and cultural history of the two species, a third panel could use the Magpie’s presence in Alaska to tell the story of the biological and cultural geography of the North Pacific...discussing the Magpie’s natural history across the region, and adding references to the extinct Panthera species of Alaska...and how similar those extinct cats may been to the Tiger. Explicitly tying the Amur Tiger to the Berengian Lion as a means to draw the attention of the visitor to Alaska’s history as easternmost Berengia. A good opportunity to tie the people of Korea and Alaska together both in their modern multicultural coexistence and through their shared heritage.

    Probably much more depth than the average zoo visitors wants or needs...but still, the above illustration, a map of the North Pacific, and a quick retelling of the Magpie’s judgment of the Tiger’s right to eat the woodsman, with both the Magpies and the Tigers close by would be nice.
     
    Last edited: 15 Jan 2021
  16. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    The signs from Connecticut Beardsley Zoo are soooo long. I wonder if there has been a study to determine whether visitors read them and, if so, what they take away.
     
  17. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Yep, some of them seem a little longwinded.

    Can you think of any displays of these kind at a zoo which get it right in terms of educational content regarding cultural beliefs but without being too tokenistic or longwinded?
     
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  18. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    This is fascinating @dt644 and thank you for sharing !

    So from what you've mentioned the magpie is a bit of a trickster type character within Korean culture (well generally is all over the world but seems particularly strong in Korea) and shares characteristics in these tales with the way the mouse deer is in Central Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines which is as a representation of the ordinary people over the rulers and powerful.

    There was this video released by the British Museum in the UK about the tiger in Japanese art a couple of days ago and I wonder whether given the strong cultural connections between Korea and Japan this representation of this animal is originally Korean in origin:

     
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  19. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Sign about the cultural significance of the bald eagle in the USA :
    [​IMG]

    Photo credit to @Talli.
     
  20. dt644

    dt644 Well-Known Member

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    I like that painting, too. The painting is the most famous tiger painting in Korea today, and it has story that the first daughter of Jo-jayong, a folklorist and folk painting collector, found it in an antique shop and bought it by suggest Jo to buy it. I think that great cultural heritage could be preserved thanks to her.


    Japan's tiger culture is somewhat different from that of Korea. The biggest difference was that no tigers lived in Japan, so Japan had to bring information about tigers from abroad. So in Japan, tigers had a stronger image as legendary animals such as dragons than real ones.


    Kato-Kiyomosa-tiger-hunting-in-Korea.jpg
    A Japanese painting of Kato Kiyomasa's tiger hunting in joseon kingdom, painted in the 19th century. Kato Kiyomasa has never actually hunted tigers, but Kato is still considered a representative of the samurai who hunted tigers in korea.

    The source of this picture is wikimedia.​


    Japan had several military activities in Korea, by invasion or alliance, and also the story of samurai who hunted tigers in Korea appears. Therefore, for the Japanese, tigers also served as abroad's legendary monster combated by brave samurai.


    To talk about the style of tiger painting, Japanese tiger paintings were different from Korea due to the differences of culture and whether tigers existed or not. Professor Choi-Kyung-guk, who majored in Japanese, said, Korean tiger paintings depicted tigers very freely, even if they look different from real tigers, but Japanese tiger paintings tried to depict tigers close to real. And also, he speculated that the Japanese might have tried to draw painting close to real tiger even by referenced to dogs and cats because they couldn't saw the real tiger.