The Natural Order

by Sevastian Winters

To Dr. David Leadbetter

C/o Wellington Zoo, Wellington, NZ

From: Dr. Jane Hogarth, Director of Animal Habitat, Auckland Zoo. Auckland NZ

Dear Dr. Leadbetter,

Thank you for giving me audience. Your extensive work in the wild, with the native creatures of our land has lead me to believe that you might be able to provide answers for us in regards to two of our animals; Lulu, a two year old wallaby, rescued when her mother was killed by poachers, and a two year old Platypus called Oscar, who my predecessor rescued from a trap that resulted in taking one of his legs. The two were nursed together in our young animals' enclosure, until the point that they reached an age of maturity. At that point we began to introduce them each to their own kind. It should be noted that until that point, the pair were inseparable. Indeed, if one were to be quite honest, I would say they had developed a sort of a friendship despite the extreme differences in their species.

When it became time to wean them, each to the enclosures of their species, where they could interact with their own kind, we found the animals to be uncooperative. We also observed some very odd behaviour. While Oscar quickly made friends among his fellow male platypuses, he had no interest in any of the females. As you know, during mating season, we allow some of our species the opportunity to choose partners, the platypus among them. While the other males took to the water to let the females know that they were interested, Oscar stayed on the shore and began to call out, as a young to its mother.

Lulu, on the other hand was difficult right from the start. We nearly had to sedate her in order to introduce her to fellow wallabies as she seemed very distraught over separation from Oscar. She took no interest whatever in her fellow wallabies and had to be removed as she was quite vicious to any who might approach her. She, like Oscar, called out as the young do for their mothers.

As you can expect, I made the decision that the two should be brought together and separated a number of times per day, thinking that they had developed, each of them a bond like mother and child, and that the rules of weaning the animals from their mothers would serve to solve the issues that made their development. I attempted to move along these lines with no success, surprised by their utter refusal to adapt.

A fortnight ago, I left my bag in my office when joining some mates at the pub after work. When I returned at about 8:00 pm to retrieve it, I looked into the animals' shared enclosure and saw something most peculiar. Lulu had stretched herself to her full length as if waiting for Oscar to scratch her tail, as is the custom of male and female wallabies during mating.

Oscar seemed troubled by his enclosure mate's odd behaviour, and went to investigate. Upon smelling her tail, Oscar ran immediately for the pond and began to swim, calling out as a male platypus is want to do when mating. I do believe the pair was trying to mate, something that you and I know to be impossible, and yet, there can be no denying that what I saw was a convoluted and unnatural mating dance.

At that point I immediately removed the animals from each other, feeling that I had misjudged their bond. I decided it would be best to separate them permanently and immediately. This met with disastrous results as both animals showed signs of distress refusing to eat or drink. After 4 days, to preserve their health, I have placed them back together, and they seem to be happy as if they had never been apart. That, sir, is why I have contacted you.

In your work with indigenous creatures, have you ever observed a similar pattern of behaviour? What would be your recommendation? Is it necessary to separate the two for the sake of tradition? Is there a chance that they could, despite the inability to create offspring together, live healthy together as companions and playmates? Any help that you might give me on this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jane Hogarth

Auckland Zoo

To Dr. Jane Hogarth

C/o Auckland Zoo, Auckland, NZ

From: Dr. David Leadbetter, Chief Animal Behaviourist; Wellington Zoo. Wellington, NZ

Dear Dr. Hogarth,

Regarding your letter about the Wallaby Lulu and the Platypus Oscar, I must admit, I am quite perplexed. I must assure you that I have never seen such behaviour between these two species, and it is my considerable opinion that the behaviour is the result of a mishandling of the animals by your predecessor. They should have never been placed together, and doing so has created a most unnatural situation. Under no circumstances should you or the Auckland Zoo encourage the behaviour of these two animals. They must be removed from each other at once never again see each other lest they revert to such behaviour.

When humans presume to interfere with the natural order of animal husbandry by placing incompatible species together, even at a young age, disastrous results like this arise. At this point, the only way to restore natural order will be to separate the animals. You spoke of their great distress and unwillingness to eat or drink when apart, but surely as a doctor, you realize that animals are forever incapable of starving themselves completely on the basis of distress. They may lose weight, but neither animal will die as a result of choosing not to eat for a time.

When they are hungry enough, they will eat, and when thirsty enough, they will drink. At all costs, the natural order must be preserved. In the future, it would behoove the Auckland Zoo to be more mindful when allowing incompatible species to choose each other as companions.

I am forwarding a copy of this communication to the CEO of the Auckland Zoo, James Cornell to impress upon him the importance of maintaining the natural order when placing animals. Please write to me again upon the successful weaning of these incompatible species from each other so that I may know the creatures have been made safe.

Sincerely

Dr David Leadbetter

Wellington Zoo

To Dr. David Leadbetter

C/o Wellington Zoo, Wellington, NZ

From: Dr. Jane Hogarth, Director of Animal Habitat, Auckland Zoo. Auckland NZ

RE: Lulu the Wallaby and Oscar the Platypus

Dr. Doctor Leadbetter,

As per your recent suggestion that the animals in question would not starve themselves to death, I must admit that of the water you were correct. Lulu however was, this morning admitted to the Zoo's hospital where she was fed intravenously due to a dangerous reduction in weight. Furthermore, I am quite satisfied that within only a couple of days, Oscar might also require that we feed him. Our plan to remove the animals from each other seems to be failing, and it is my opinion that we should place them back together until we can find a more suitable alternative. Are there any other options?

Sincerely

Dr Jane Hogarth

Wellington Zoo

To Dr. Jane Hogarth

C/o Auckland Zoo, Auckland, NZ

From: Dr. David Leadbetter, Chief Animal Behaviourist; Wellington Zoo. Wellington, NZ

Dear Dr. Hogarth,

I repeat my earlier statement. Under no circumstances should you place these animals together again. Doing so would undermine the work you have thus far accomplished in removing them. For the good of the animals, even if intravenous feeding is required for a time, they must be kept apart. You yourself have stated that the animals can never bear offspring together. As such it is an unnatural match and is therefore bad for the animals. Do no harm Doctor. That is our creed. Keep the faith. These animals can be cured of their unnatural and inexplicable bond.

One consideration before I terminate this message: Have you considered placing each animal with a suitable mate of their own kind? It could be that forcing them into a group setting where they are required to fit in with their peers could be contributing to their lack of interest in things other than each other.

Sincerely

Dr David Leadbetter

Wellington Zoo

To Dr. David Leadbetter

C/o Wellington Zoo, Wellington, NZ

From: Dr. Jane Hogarth, Director of Animal Habitat, Auckland Zoo. Auckland NZ

RE: Lulu the Wallaby and Oscar the Platypus

Dr. Doctor Leadbetter,

Per your suggestion that I should place Oscar and Lulu privately with suitable mates, I have attempted to do such with no success. Furthermore, until this morning I had been feeding both Lulu and Oscar Intravenously for nearly a month. The plan to wean them from each other has failed. This morning, however I made the decision to allow them access to each other, and a wonderful thing happened. Upon greeting each other excitedly, both animals ate hearty meals and have spent the day playing and napping together in the sun. While their relationship may defy what zoological science claims as natural, there can be no denying that in the case of Lulu the Wallaby and Oscar the platypus, their greatest chance for happiness lies in being each, the companion of the other. I am happy that this matter has been brought to a suitable conclusion despite an outcome that is different than originally expected. Good luck in your endeavours.

Sincerely

Dr Jane Hogarth

Wellington Zoo

To Dr. Jane Hogarth

From: James Cornell, CEO Auckland Zoo

RE: Mishandling of animals

Dear Dr. Hogarth,

After consulting with Dr. David Leadbetter of the Wellington Zoo, you were informed that Lulu the Wallaby and Oscar the Platypus were to be forever removed from each other a consultation to which I gave my own wholehearted support. In a phone call from Dr. Leadbetter this afternoon, I was however, informed that the animals have now been placed together again. The work heretofore accomplished has been for not, and the natural order has once again been defied.

I regret to inform you that your services at the Auckland Zoo will no longer be required. On my directive, the board has decided to terminate your employment due to mishandling of our animals. The bearer of this note will wait as you collect your belongings and depart from the premises. We regret that the matter required us to terminate your employment, but your mishandling of the animals in question has left us with no other choice. May you have better success in the future.

Sincerely,

James Cornell

CEO Auckland Zoo

A story on page 3 of the Auckland News Examiner:

Unexplained Starvation Deaths at Local Zoo

Zoo officials at the Auckland Zoo are struggling to explain the recent starvation death of two animals, Lulu the Wallaby and Oscar, a duck billed platypus. According to Zoo officials, Dr Jane Hogarth was recently fired from the Auckland Zoo for mishandling these two creatures. Despite attempts to feed them intravenously, both animals succumbed to starvation within minutes of each other. Authorities seek to question Dr Hogarth on the matter, but Dr. Hogarth has apparently fled to the United States on the presumption that she is seeking employment with yet another Zoo.

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