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0761 Animals in a Zoo

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 761: Animals in a Zoo.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 761. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there, become a member, download a Learning Guide, and support ESL Podcast.

This episode is called “Animals in a Zoo.” We’re going to talk about animals in a zoo. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Deborah: I can’t wait to see the elephants at the zoo. I wish I could see them in their natural habitat, but a zoo is the next best thing.

Zach: I don’t want to go to a place where animals are kept in captivity. How would you like it if you were locked in a cage and gawked at all day?

Deborah: The animals in zoos are lucky. They have a nice, safe place to live away from predators, and their handlers make sure they never go hungry. Zoos preserve endangered species.

Zach: If you think it’s so nice living in zoos, I’d like to see you switch places with a lion or a monkey for a month and see how you like it.

Deborah: Animals aren’t people. They don’t have the same wants and needs.

Zach: That’s what you think. One day, the animals aren’t going to take it anymore. They’ll rise up and break their shackles.

Deborah: And will you be their ringleader?

Zach: No, I’ll be their cheering section. It’s about time animals get some respect.

Deborah: Have you seen Planet of the Apes?! I’ll reserve a cage for you!

[end of dialogue]

Deborah begins our dialogue by saying to Zach, “I can’t wait to see the elephants at the zoo.” “I can’t wait” means she’s looking forward to it; she wants very much to see the elephants at the zoo. “Elephants” are large animals – mammals, technically. They can typically be found in Africa as well as in parts of Asia. I can only think of one famous elephant, that would be Dumbo from the Disney movie. Elephants are large, huge animals. They have long what we call “trunks” that come from the front of their face, like a long nose, although I think it has functions of both a nose and a mouth, at least some of them. Anyway, Deborah wants to see elephants at the zoo. The “zoo” is a park where there are many animals. The animals are usually kept in containers we would call “cages.” They are put in cages in part so they don’t leave, and in part to protect the people who are looking at them. Deborah says, “I wish I could see them (the elephants) in their natural habitat, but a zoo is the next best thing.” Your “habitat” (habitat) refers to a place where you live. “Natural habitat” for an animal would be the places where you would find them out in the world, not inside of a man-made cage or zoo. Deborah says, “a zoo is the next best thing.” When we say something is “the next best thing” we mean it’s not the best option – the best possibility, but it’s the second best.

Zach says, “I don’t want to go to a place where animals are kept in captivity.” The expression “in captivity” (captivity) means that you are held in a certain place and you can’t leave. If you are a prisoner you may be said to be held in captivity. Normally we use the expression when talking about animals, however. Animals who are put into cages could be said to be held in captivity or kept in captivity. Zach says, “How would you like it if you were locked in a cage and gawked at all day?” Zach doesn’t like zoos; he doesn’t like the fact that the animals are put in cages, so he asks Deborah, “How would you like it if you were put in a cage.” A “cage,” as we mentioned, is a large box usually with metal bars that prevent the animal inside from leaving. He asks Deborah how she would feel if she were being gawked at all day. “To gawk (gawk) at (someone)” is to stare at them, to look at them for a long time, but sort of in a stupid way, often with your mouth open because it’s so weird – it’s so unusual. It’s considered rude or impolite to gawk at people, to look at them, and that’s what Zach is saying. To look at someone in such a way as though they were an animal, that would be considered rude. Sometimes we talk about tourists who come to Los Angeles gawking at celebrities that they might see, famous people, staring at them, looking at them, pointing at them. That’s something that people who live in Los Angeles usually don’t do, not because they’re not excited to see famous people, but because the general rule here is that you don’t stop a famous person and ask them for their autograph or try to talk to them. Typically, you just leave them alone. You pretend like you see famous people every day and it’s really not that important that you’re seeing them.

Well, Zach doesn’t like zoo; he doesn’t want to go gawk at animals. Deborah says, however, that the animals in zoos are lucky – they’re fortunate. “They have a nice, safe place to live away from predators.” “Predators” (predators) here refer to animals that hunt and eat other animals. If an animal is in a zoo, it doesn’t have to worry about being eaten by predators. Deborah says that the animals’ handlers make sure they never go hungry. A “handler” (handler) in this dialogue means a zookeeper, the person whose job it is to take care of the animals in the zoo. Deborah says the handlers make sure that the animals never go hungry; they always have food to eat. “Zoos,” she says, “preserve endangered species.” A “species” is a type of animal. “Endangered” means that it’s possible that the species – the animals of that type – might not survive, that we might kill all of them. “Endangered species” are animals that are in danger because if we don’t protect them there may not be any of them anymore. This happens often when animals are hunted, are caught or shot with a gun by humans, of course. Or if something disturbs their habitat – if something changes the place where they’re living they may go extinct. “To go extinct” (extinct) means that they will no longer exist, that all of them will die. That’s an endangered species, a species that is not extinct but is in danger of becoming extinct.

Zach says, “If you think it’s so nice living in zoos, I’d like to see you (Deborah) switch places with a lion or a monkey for a month and see how you like it.” “To switch places” means to go in the place of someone else, to exchange your place for his place. Zach is saying that she should switch places with a “lion,” which is a very large, cat-like animal. And because it’s cat-like, you probably can guess I don’t really like lions! Zach mentions monkeys. “Monkeys” are small, human-like animals, we could say. They have long arms and legs, and they can go and hold onto things with their hands. They can swing, we would say, jump from tree to tree for example.

Deborah says, “Animals aren’t people. They don’t have the same wants and needs.” Zach says, “That’s what you think.” That expression, “that’s what you think,” means I disagree with you. You think that but you don’t know the truth, that’s what the expression is trying to communicate here. Zach says, “One day, the animals aren’t going to take it anymore,” meaning they’re not going to tolerate, they’re not going to permit, they’re not going to stand being in cages. They’re going to get mad, if you will, and they’re going to break out of their cages – leave them. Zach says, “They’ll rise up and break their shackles.” “To rise up” is a phrasal verb meaning to fight against the people or the organizations with authority that have been treating you badly. When you have a revolution, the people rise up; they get rid of the government they have now. “Shackles” (shackles) are things that you put on a prisoner’s feet so they won’t run away. “To break your shackles” means to take these off so you can escape – you can run away. Zach is saying that the animals are going to rise up and break their shackles, meaning they’re going to get their freedom from the zoo.

Deborah says, “And will you be their ringleader?” She’s asking Zach if he will be the person who leads these animals. A “ringleader” is usually someone who is the responsible person for a revolution or a rebellion. Zach says, “No, I’ll be their cheering section.” “To cheer” (cheer) here means to encourage, by yelling or shouting or clapping your hands, some team, usually a sports team that you want to win a game. But in this case, the “cheering section” refers to people who would support a certain activity. They’re not doing it themselves, but they are encouraging other people to do it, and that’s what Zach would do if the animals rose up and broke their shackles, as he says. He says, “It’s about time animals get some respect.” “It’s about time” means now is the time, it has been too long, we should be giving animals now some respect.

Deborah says, “Have you seen Planet of the Apes?!” Planet of the Apes is a movie – a 1968 movie with a famous actor named Charlton Heston. In the movie the animals, specifically the apes which is a kind of animal similar to a monkey, not exactly the same, who are ruling the planet. The apes are now in control and the humans are the ones who are in the cages. Deborah asks if Zach has seen this movie, because in the movie the humans don’t get very good treatment, that’s why she says at the end, “I’ll reserve a cage for you!” “To reserve” means to set aside, to say this person can use it at this time. But Deborah is really saying that if the animals rise up – if the animals take over the world humans will not be treated very well and Zach will have to be in a cage just like the animals are now. It won’t be a very happy situation she says.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Deborah: I can’t wait to see the elephants at the zoo. I wish I could see them in their natural habitat, but a zoo is the next best thing.

Zach: I don’t want to go to a place where animals are kept in captivity. How would you like it if you were locked in a cage and gawked at all day?

Deborah: The animals in zoos are lucky. They have a nice, safe place to live away from predators, and their handlers make sure they never go hungry. Zoos preserve endangered species.

Zach: If you think it’s so nice living in zoos, I’d like to see you switch places with a lion or a monkey for a month and see how you like it.

Deborah: Animals aren’t people. They don’t have the same wants and needs.

Zach: That’s what you think. One day, the animals aren’t going to take it anymore. They’ll rise up and break their shackles.

Deborah: And will you be their ringleader?

Zach: No, I’ll be their cheering section. It’s about time animals get some respect.

Deborah: Have you seen Planet of the Apes?! I’ll reserve a cage for you!

[end of dialogue]

I hope you’re in the cheering section for our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
elephant – a very large mammal with grey or brown skin, very large ears, and a long trunk (like a nose) that can be used to spray water, found in Africa and Asia

* Two elephants led the circus parade.

zoo – an outdoor park with many animals kept in cages to entertain and educate people, and sometimes to protect animals

* Did you hear that a baby panda was born at the zoo last night?

natural habitat – where an animal normally or traditionally lives, without interference from human beings

* The zookeepers are trying to imitate the penguins’ natural habitat by lowering the temperature and giving them plenty of ice.

next best thing – the second-best option or situation when the top or best option or situation is not available

* For the first few years after they were married, Wendy and Ward didn’t have enough money to buy a house, so living in the apartment above his parents’ garage was the next best thing.

in captivity – being held in a particular place and unable to leave; caged

* Most animals live longer in captivity than in the wild, because they receive better food and they aren’t attacked by other animals.

cage – a large box built with metal bars so that there are empty spaces between those bars, used to keep an animal inside and prevent it from leaving

* Gerald keeps a large parrot in a cage by his kitchen window.

to gawk at – to stare at something in a stupid way, often with one’s mouth open, because it is very surprising, interesting, or unusual

* Heather hates being very overweight and having everyone gawk at her.

predator – an animal that hunts (chases) and eats another animal

* Cats and hawks are dangerous predators for small mice.

handler – zookeeper; a person whose job is to take care of an animal in a zoo or circus, especially for a dangerous animal

* Rick received a lot of scratches from lions while he was a working as a handler.

endangered species – a type of animal that is in danger because very few animals are left and it is not likely that it will continue to be able to reproduce and survive in future generations

* People generally want to save cute endangered species, like panda bears and small monkeys, but they aren’t interested in ugly or less interesting endangered species like insects, fungi, and plants.

to switch places – to exchange roles; to live or imagine living as another person; to experience something as another person experiences it

* If you could switch places with anyone in history, who would it be and why?

lion – a very large, cat-like animal that lives in Africa, with sharp teeth and claws (fingernails), and with males that have a lot of gold-colored hair all around their face

* Lions are known as the King of the Jungle because they are very strong and all other animals run from them.

monkey – a primate; a small, human-like animal that has opposable thumbs (thumbs that can be moved separately from other fingers and used to hold objects) and can use its long arms, legs, and tail to hold objects and swing on tree branches

* Do you believe humans evolved from monkeys?

to rise up – to rebel; to fight against people or organizations with authority, especially when one has been treated badly

* How often did slaves rise up against their masters in the early 1800s in the southern United States?

to break (one’s) shackles – to escape and find freedom; to break out of whatever is holding one and preventing one from moving freely

* The prisoner broke his shackles and escaped from the prison.

ringleader – leader; a person who leads others, especially in a rebellion or revolution

* Charlie was the ringleader who encouraged his classmates to refuse to do the homework assignment.

cheering section – a group of people who applaud (clap) and encourage the actions of another person or group, but do not become involved in those actions

* When Luciana ran the marathon, she had a whole cheering section of friends and family members along the way.

Planet of the Apes – a 1968 science fiction movie where space explorers land on a planet where primates (monkey-like animals) are intelligent and able to communicate, and humans are very primitive (undeveloped) and not able to talk

* Do you think primates will ever be intelligent enough to create a society like the one in Planet of the Apes?

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Deborah think the animals in zoos are lucky?
a) Because they get paid a lot of money.
b) Because they don’t have to hide from other animals.
c) Because they’re never too cold or too hot.

2. What would happen if the animals broke their shackles?
a) They’d need to be treated by a veterinarian (animal doctor).
b) They’d be able to leave their cages.
c) They’d eat the other animals in the zoo.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
the next best thing

The phrase “the next best thing,” in this podcast, means the second-best option or situation when the top or best option or situation is not available: “When Lillian wasn’t accepted into medical school, she decided that becoming a nurse was the next best thing.” The phrase “to make the best of (something)” means to deal with a bad situation in a good way and find a way to make it positive: “Craig lost his job, but he decided to make the best of it by spending more time with his family and going back to school.” Finally, the phrase “with the best [of them]” shows that someone is very good at doing something: “I may not be a very good soccer player, but I can play tennis with the best of them.”

to rise up

In this podcast, the phrase “to rise up” means to rebel or to fight against people or organizations with authority, especially when one has been treated badly: “What caused the Americans to rise up against the British and start the American Revolution?” The phrase “to rise above” means to ignore something or pretend it is not important: “The most successful high school students are the ones who can rise above the typical teenage arguments.” The phrase “to give rise to (something)” means to yield or produce something: “The Internet gave rise to rapid, global communication.” Finally, the phrase “to get a rise out of (someone)” means to do something to make someone react, especially angrily: “If you knew your memo would get a rise out of your boss, why did you write it anyway?”

Culture Note
Types of Zoos

There are many different types of zoos in the United States. A “traditional” (common; as things were done in the past) zoo has animals in many different cages, and people walk along paths between and around those cages to view the animals. Modern zoos try to “alter” (change) the cages to “imitate” (copy) the animals’ natural habitat. For example, the metal bars of cages are hidden behind “vegetation” (plants) and “concrete” (cement) “barriers” (objects separating things from each other) are “disguised as” (made to look like something else) “boulders” (large rocks).

“Open-range zoos” “take this a step further” (continue an idea, pushing it further) by putting animals in large, open areas, but not in cages. The areas are “fenced off” (with separating walls) to prevent predators from being in the same area as their “prey” (the animals killed and eaten by predators) and to prevent them from leaving the zoo. But within those large, fenced areas, animals of different “species” (types of animals) can interact. Because open-range zoos are very large, people visit them in a vehicle, either by driving their own car on paved roads or by riding in a special type of car or bus.

“Petting zoos” are smaller collections of “domesticated animals” (animals that are used to being around humans, especially on farms) like rabbits, goats, chickens, and sheep. Young children are able to enter the “pen” (a cage without a ceiling) with the animals and “pet” (touch) them or even feed them.

An “aquarium” is a type of zoo for viewing and studying “aquatic” (relating to the water) life, often “undersea” (in the ocean) plants and animals.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b