The Zebras Out Back

Eye See You
Eye See You

In the area where I live, city streets, houses and apartment buildings intermingle freely with countryside lands and properties. Having grown up the latter part of my youth in the country, I often feel it's a little strange because I don't know whether I am observing country lands that shouldn't be there, or that the city is slowly strangling what's left of the rich wild areas that still exist along the river. I have seen lots of animals in the area ranging from squirrels, deer, Canadian geese, snakes, lizards, coyotes and otters to name a few. But none so strange as the ones on the property behind my apartment complex, where the wall ends and the country begins.

Sometime late last year, I started to hear a mule or donkey, hee hawing its head off. I was completely certain that it was in great pain and being tortured or that it was badly injured. But as I listened, I realized that the strength of its calls belied that belief. It continued for hours at a time and often at night. Around the same time, I noticed a heavy stink of cow or horse patties that drifted over the wall to the back of the complex, but it honestly never bothered me because it reminds me that the countryside is close by, no matter how little of it remains here. Being in the woods or the country, often makes me feel that an adventure in some wild place like Africa is only steps away.

The bellowing has continued a few nights per week and continues even now. I have gotten quite used to it and decided that it must be an especially loud donkey and only felt a little sorry for the poor lonely fenced-in creature. Recently, I was in the managers office, filling my laundry card and listening to another resident telling Nancy, the apartment manager, about the smell from the camels and zebras. Being a typically slow-to-comprehend male, it finally dawned on me that they were talking about the land out back. I asked with wide eyes if they were and Nancy confirmed it. She told me to just walk up the stairs to the door of my overhead neighbor and I would be able to see both.

Turned out I was right. Africa is only a few steps away. I was able to see through the trees, five beautiful zebras clustered around a feeder at the far end of the enclosure. I realize now that our preconceptions could always use a bit of scrutiny, and we shouldn't assume anything. I assumed first that it was a donkey in pain. I listened carefully though and figured out it couldn't be. I also assumed that more overpowering animal smell had something to do with the horses I was used to hearing canter next to the other side of the wall. If I had put two and two together, I might have guessed that it was no ordinary event that had occurred, and perhaps taken a look and solved a minor mystery that had buzzed around inside my head for months.

Nancy is a great lady, wise and diplomatic, she also won't let tenants ruin the peace and is tireless about keeping the complex and the units maintained and clean looking. But she doesn't think it's right to have wild animals right in the middle of the city, and certainly not behind the complex. I suppose there is some cause for concern, zebras are wild, energetic creatures. They might break out and run down the street and eventually find their way to the busy intersections of metropolitan traffic not far from their peaceful countryside pen. It might also be plausible that they will jump on top of the wall, (about ten feet high), and end up in the complex causing injury and damage. Although that last is a bit far fetched. But it would seem that they are content to roam their little piece of country and call to each other at night. And perhaps it is wrong to cage such magnificent creatures, they need room to run and play and mate. I doubt they can do much of any of those three, held as they are, by their caretakers. But I just don't know.

If you ask me, they are far better off receiving personal attention by people and to roam a little plot of land, than if they were put to sleep or put in a zoo where they would live in even smaller enclosures. This is the main reason I don't like going to zoos. Even the San Diego Wild Animal Park houses many of its animals in cages or small spaces.

Shipping them off to Africa is probably not an option, and the land owner was probably the most available person to take care of these refugee animals. If that is the case, I welcome them in my backyard even though I don't see them very often, and I think we should be grateful too. Personally, I prefer zebras over free-roaming lions behind that wall.

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Comments 21 comments

Zollstock profile image

Zollstock 7 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

Thanks for sharing this discovery so eloquently. Maybe our modern generation truly needs a little Africa (or a little Monterey, or even just a tiny slice of good, old farm life) in our back yard. Suburbia has caused a disconnect from nature for many, in my opinion. And I agree – private habitats that resemble a level of normalcy are preferable to inadequate caging or, worse, death. For now, enjoy those beautiful creatures nearby when you can!


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for the perspective Zollstock, and the nice comment. Wouldn't it be great if we could build cities as half parks, or even revamp existing cities into half parks, and then tame the wild animals so that we could enjoy them more? Domesticate every animal on Earth. I am not kidding, your comment inspired me. We have so many domesticated species now, we could do it with other animals. A Russian researcher caught a whole bunch of foxes and bred them in captivity and domesticated them. After twenty generations, they acted like dogs and even their fur coloring had completely changed!


Zollstock profile image

Zollstock 7 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

I am going to have to very kindly disagree here, Alexander Mark. If we domesticated wild animals, they would lose … well … what is wild about them. Isn't that a little too much human meddling, just a few steps away from genetic manipulation? I could see that some species might survive better if humans took care of and lived in peace with them rather than invading their habitats and senselessly wreaking havoc. But, to me, a wild animal is beautiful because it is free.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

How I came to this, is too much to explain here. But if one subscribes to creationism, originally all animals lived in harmony. I love how beautifully it works now too, the balance of hunter and prey, but being wild means animals suffer a great deal. Predators starve to death, and prey gets rended from limb to limb when caught to feed that predator. Fear and hiding and hunger. I don't think those wild animals are as happy as we would like to think. And if you look at any domesticated animal, in an ideal pet / owner situation, the animal is extremely happy, and in many cases there is a symbiotic relationship between them. Cats provide comfort and beauty, dogs provide love and loyalty and defense and playtime for kids. Think of the benefits if we could domesticate lions and zebras and breed out the wildness. The wild is beautiful, but also ugly. This came from the fact that Jesus loved hanging out in that garden, which represented an amalgam of humanity and creation. The only real flaw in my idea is that in this world, it would never completely work, predators still need meat to survive. I still challenge the non-interference thing. It's like wolves, naturalists are so enamored with the beauty of the wild wolf, that when they write a book about them, they always point out how dangerous they are not, and try to convince us that they are peaceful hippy wolves, dancing around a fire singing Kumbaya. They can and do turn on humans. Wild is neat, but not an end to itself. Thanks for the great comment and challenge.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Unbelievable, are they still there?


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

I believe so, I still smell them and hear them at 3am. My apartment manager thinks it's wrong to have wild animals in the city and has tried to report the Zebras, but it doesn't seem that they are going to be removed. I am waiting for winter so I can take some pictures, that's when the tree blocking my view will lose all its leaves.


jiberish profile image

jiberish 7 years ago from florida

Very Interesting. This Hub caught my eye first, because I painted this photograph in oil, and have it as my Avatar for several Hubs, and because I love zebras, always have. I am for leaving nature alone, and if your zebras are living peacefuly, I say let them live.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Hi jiberish, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope I haven't infringed on any copyrights! I just checked out the painting, it's beautiful. As far as leaving the Zebras alone, I agree as long as they are not being abused. I enjoy hearing them and believe it or not, even smelling them, much better than the sounds of woofers from passing cars and other city smells and noises!


oliversmum profile image

oliversmum 6 years ago from australia

Alexander Mark. Hi. Wow how extremely lucky you must feel to have these beautiful animals so close to your home.

They must feel safe and happy to stay in the area that they have chosen to live.

No zoo could ever have enough space to cater for such animals, and my personal opinion is that animals of any size should not be kept in cages, Its makes them very unhappy and a little confused.

I might be wrong but I believe if you keep out of their space, they will keep out of ours.

I did enjoy reading your story. Thanks for sharing it with us. :) :).


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 6 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for visiting and commenting oliversmum. I have moved since I wrote the article, but it was a blessing to hear them at night. I don't think many people would agree with me :-) I'm glad you liked the hub.


jandee profile image

jandee 5 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

Alexander, We should be so lucky !The wild ones were here first and they are beautiful in their wildness. Damn us for interfering! Thanks for nice story,jandee


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Ha ha! Thanks for the spirited response jandee. If everyone was a horse, you would be a zebra!


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

I loved this Mark. I hear a rooster crow every morning and to me it is a great sound. There is a rather noisy horse down the street that does cause me concern as he seems to always be in a frenzy..I hear him..and I wonder if he is okay..It is a few houses down. I just got some chicks and If I could I would have a couple goats, a horse, and a cow..I love the country and I only live on an acre so I know I am limited..Something about the sounds of animals around me makes me feel alive.I am sure the Zebras do this for you too..as long as they are cared for well.Thanks again.

Sunnie


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

I have since moved, but where I live now, if I am up late enough, which lately is very often, I hear a morning bird calling. It is absolutely wonderful. I used to worry about the Zebras myself, they sounded like they were in agony. But when I learned what they were, I checked online and found out their racket was perfectly normal. Hopefully, your neighboring horses are also fine - maybe he's not a gelding and maybe he's close to a mare ;-)

I agree, I love the sounds of animals around me too. Thanks for the description of your surroundings, it sounds great.


PADDYBOY60 profile image

PADDYBOY60 4 years ago from Centreville Michigan

Very interesting hub. They could be rescue animals or used for a pet zoo. I agree that wild animals should stay wild, but on the other hand there is the educational aspect of zoos. That is where the wild animal collection should end, at the zoo. There should be strict laws on collecting exotic animals. It is too easy for anyone to buy almost any kind of exotic animal. I just read a news article about a man being bitten by a Black Mamba, while purchasing it from a private seller that didn't even have a permit to have it in the first place. People need to leave the collecting to experts. Now we have evasive species in the warmer regions, that the average person cannot handle. Sorry about going on like that, but people need to wake up. There are more lions and tigers in captivity than there is in the wild. How many people know that? Don't get me wrong here. I love going to the zoo and seeing animals of the world, because I can't afford to go to where they are wild. That's where the zoos come into play. Thanks for hearing me out.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 4 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for finding this old hub of mine and, "going on," it's good to get different viewpoints.

The issue of keeping wild animals is an important one for those that love animals. I suppose it's comparable to the hunter that loves nature and enjoys mounting stuffed deer heads on his wall.

I think there are probably humane ways to keep wild animals, and it can be said that some of them actually do well as domesticated animals, like the Bobcat believe it or not. Or how about those lions raised by two guys (brothers I think) that were released into a large preserve when they got older, but still recognized their human friends years later and showered affection on them.

What I do hate is to see animals in small cages that are kept irresponsibly for no reason but for the owner to feel they have a piece of the wild in their backyard. If you're going to have a wolf, you should have enough land for it to roam on, and companionship as well.


PADDYBOY60 profile image

PADDYBOY60 4 years ago from Centreville Michigan

Well put, Alexander.


stessily 4 years ago

AM, You narrated this journey of discovery so well! And then my interest was piqued more by one of your comments:

"I am waiting for winter so I can take some pictures, that's when the tree blocking my view will lose all its leaves."

Alas, not gonna happen, cuz a later comment indicates that you have moved. (Of course, I'm happy that you moved, since you seem to have wanted to do that!) I was just momentarily disappointed about no personal photos.

Zebras are so fascinating, and every child loves to ponder whether they're black on white or white on black.

Beautifully narrated with insightful observations, such as:

"I often feel it's a little strange because I don't know whether I am observing country lands that shouldn't be there, or that the city is slowly strangling what's left of the rich wild areas that still exist along the river."

A perplexity along the same lines of zebra coloring! We never seem to stray far from those questions of childhood.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 4 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Stessily, your comments are so awesome, I love how you catch the little things I add that I want people to catch like the beautiful contradictions that exist next to one another. I miss the Zebra's for sure, but I am very glad to be out of the middle of the city, and living on the outskirts. My situation and mental well-being is much improved. Who knows, maybe one of my neighbors has lions on their backyard!


Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 4 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

A very cool hub. I am enamored with many sorts of equine, zebras included.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 4 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon Author

Horses have a unique presence don't they? (Yes, I just called a Zebra a horse lol).

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