Alarm bells sound over ark project
Animals might be be put at risk at Kentucky’s planned theme park
IF YOU have $100,000 dollars to spare and the brain the size of a neutrino, you might consider buying a stake in a “replica” of Noah’s Ark, scheduled to built in Kentucky by those nutjobs over at Answers in Genesis.
Investors who buy $100,000 of the taxable securities being offered by the northern Kentucky city of Williamstown will get a lifetime family pass. In total, Williamstown plans to offer $62 million worth of securities for the project.
Proceeds will help build a 510-foot (155.4-meter) wooden ship, the centrepiece of a planned biblical theme park called “Ark Encounter”.
Gwen Pearson, who has a PhD in Entomology and serves as Network Coordinator for the Organization of Biological Field Stations, foresees problems. BIG problems regarding animal welfare. She writes here:
From the first announcement of the park in 2009, live animal displays inside a giant wooden boat were part of the plan. That’s kind of what the story of the Ark is all about. Just how they are going to jam lots of animals into an artificial, closed environment with loud tourists and a bunch of other animals (some of which are predators), has been a bit hazy.
In a 2010 interview, Mike Zovath, Senior Vice President of Answers in Genesis, a retired Army lieutenant who is overseeing the construction of the ark, explained:
The ark is to be built with wooden pegs and timber framing by Amish builders. Animals including giraffes — but only small, young giraffes — will be kept in pens on board. We think that God would probably have sent healthy juvenile-sized animals that weren’t fully grown yet, so there would be plenty of room,.
That, said Pearson, is pretty much in line with published statements from Answers in Genesis. By their estimates, 16,000 land animals and birds, including dinosaurs, were on the ark. Before you ask, she said, provisioning for dinosaurs wasn’t a problem for Noah:
Carnivorous dinosaurs – if any were meat-eaters before the Flood – could have eaten dried meat, reconstituted dried meat, or slaughtered animals.
Above is an artist’s illustration of one of the animal confinement bays inside the planned Ark, from a video released this year (2013). Pearson said:
If I saw something like that in my neighbor’s garage, I’d call animal welfare. The wooden poop diversion system shown in this photo will not hold up under a constant bombardment of feces, uric acid, and ammonia. I’ve helped manage and care for a wide assortment of wild and domestic animals, big and small, over the course of my career.
There is a HUGE amount of paperwork, documentation, and inspections involved in having captive animals. It is, frankly, a gigantic pain in the ass, and the animals are healthier and receive better care because of all the annoying, complex rules. That’s why the Ark project set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head.
Pearson was worried enough to contact Zovath and got some encouraging news. Way off kilter he may be, but Zovath has had the sense to realise that the original concept had more holes in it than Norah Batty’s tights. He backed off his earlier statements about a zoo full of juvenile animals removed from parental care, saying:
We originally thought about a lot more exotic animals on the ark, but as we got into the design and the code restrictions, we realized we weren’t going to be able to do what we wanted to do.
Because the ark is what it is, people do expect to encounter some live animals while they are walking around… but we had to modify what we planned do with large animals on board. We’ve gone from trying to have an actual zoo inside with exotic animals to mostly farm animals. Little farm animals, like mini-cows.
He also mentioned that they would use animatronic animals or stuffed display animals rather than live animals for exotic species. Commented Pearson:
This is another bit of good news; I’d predict hoof problems in a giraffe within a week of standing on wood saturated with feces and urine. Using “small farm animals” isn’t a solution for that problem, though. Laminitis is a common problem for cows and other hoofed mammals, and it’s associated with poor diet and standing on hard floors.
I’m not, frankly, convinced that this structure is going to be a very pleasant place for human animals, either. It’s a wooden box about the length of 1.7 football fields, and it’s going to be full of people talking and stomping around. Add into that multimedia presentations, live non-human animals, all the bodily products of those animals, and multiple food service areas.
It’s going to be pretty noisy and smelly, even with a state-of-the-art HVAC system. This is an attraction that exists to promote a religious message. It’s not about animals at all. The welfare of the animals and their biology is less important than their ability to reinforce a religious myth.
She pointed out that the issue of animal welfare is not new for creationists. The Museum of Creation and Earth (formerly run by the Institute for Creation Research, and not connected to Answers in Genesis) was recently denied membership in the San Diego Museum Council, in part because of:
Their animal care and the protocol and care of their exhibitions…a lot of areas that were not in line with membership guidelines.
Creationists reconstruct old stories from a book. That’s fine, and best of luck to them. But animals should not suffer and die for their design sins.