While many zoos do an exemplary job constructing habitats that closely mimic their animals’ natural environments, zoo animals basically live their lives in captivity to entertain and educate humans. Are these entertainment and educational benefits worth more than the animals’ stress from living in captivity and their constant exposure to humans?
Unlike their wild counterparts, zoo animals have nowhere to go when the energy they pick up from zoo visitors gets to be too much. I decided early in my Let Animals Lead® Method of Animal Reiki journey to focus on captive wild animals by offering them whatever help I could to ease their stress.
I visited our local zoo on a beautiful early May morning full of brilliant sunshine, warm temperatures, and blooming flowers and trees. The park was full of young families enjoying the weather. I chose a bench by the grey wolves and Amur tiger exhibits on which to meditate and hold space for whichever animals wished to join.
The wolves and tiger appeared to be napping, but plenty of other animals were awake and active, like the otters that swam luxuriously in their pond. I set my intention to hold space for the animals that wanted to share my Joshin Kokyu Ho meditation and added the Elements chant.
The elephants came to mind as I meditated. Their enclosure was further down the zoo path, near the Animals of the Savannah exhibit where a baby giraffe had been born a few days earlier. The zoo had closed that section of the park, creating a bottleneck in front of the elephants’ enclosure. People who had come to see the Animals of the Savannah exhibit unaware of the temporary closure crowded in front of the elephants. Lots of noisy preschoolers and their parents stood in front of the fence admiring them, not realizing that their clamor could possibly confuse and worry the elephants.
I continued to sit on the bench and hold space for the elephants. I could sense their anxiety dissipating. My husband reported afterward that the elephants seemed relaxed during the time I held that space for them. Meantime, the wolves awoke from their nap and quietly explored their enclosure without the agitated pacing or perimeter guarding that I’ve seen in the past.
It is fulfilling to witness the soothing effects that Reiki has on an animal’s mental and emotional state, especially in those animals that are agitated by confinement in cages or enclosures. I will continue to offer Reiki to zoo animals as a way to give back to them for the enjoyment they bring to others.
By SARA Practitioner Elizabeth Maginnis