When the Ada-Kar Menagerie and Aquarium announced that its newest exhibit would include a manticore, the excitement was outweighed only by the outrage. Now that three months have passed, there has been little common ground to find between the two divergent factions. Indeed, the opinions of experts as well as the layman are as diverse as the people of Valhalla.
On one hand, the opponents of the exhibit cite numerous reasons why housing a manticore is a bad idea. Perhaps the most outspoken of these objectors is Kira Meadows of PEToC (People for the Ethical Treatment of Creatures). “Of course, our primary objection is the same as it is for any caged wild creature. These beings should be loose in their natural habitats, not jailed for our entertainment,” Kira explains. “The normal range of a manticore covers nearly seven hundred hectares. Now these creatures are confined to only three. Manticore are known to be particularly hostile when they are cornered. So what is the wisdom of keeping them in cramped conditions where they are sure to lash out at the least provocation?”
Maxine Headrow of the Ada-Kar Menagerie and Aquarium begs to differ. “The reason these creatures have such wide hunting ranges is that they are large creatures living in sparse areas. They have to continually hunt for food in order to maintain their body weight. This forces the creatures to roam far and wide for sustenance. Such will not be the case at the Menagerie. They will be well-fed, well-tended, and well-secured. They will have one of the most advanced enclosures ever made. When the exhibit opens next month the world will be gifted with the sight of one of the most rare and exotic creatures alive.”
The exhibit itself is situated in the “deserts” area of the Menagerie. Though the enclosure only takes up less than two hectares, there is a cave complex along the western wall that extends the living area to well over three hectares. With 90% of this area viewable by portholes and remote cameras, there is little doubt that the Manticore can feel privacy while still being observable by the public.
But the welfare of the creatures is not Kira Meadows’ only concern. She also indicates the danger of having such creatures in a major population center. “These wild beings have complex problem solving skills. They are alpha-predators. They don’t earn that title by being stupid. Studies have shown that they are able to solve complex mazes and puzzles with impressive speed and accuracy. They learn and adapt quickly. Any creature that can do that can learn to escape a cage.”
As proof she cites the incident last year at the Khrushchev Zoo in Narodnaya Strana. A mastodon broke loose of its enclosure, trampling and goring ten people before it was put down. “And that is not the only incident like this,” she continues. “Something similar could easily happen here. Is it really worth exposing our children to such a possibility?”
“The walls are made of poured concrete,” Maxine Headrow retorts. “The glass is five inches thick and made of Polycrominite Glass . . . the same stuff Megalopolis used on the space station. Manticore may have sharp claws and wicked teeth. They may even be able to shoot their tail spikes over a hundred feet, or inject enough neurotoxin to kill two elephants, but they cannot shred, bite, pierce, or poison their way through Polycrominite Glass!”
Despite the protests, the plans are moving forward. Two manticore have already been selected and plans for moving them into the enclosure are under way. The female, Tiamat, will be a permanent resident at the menagerie, while the male, Abzu, is on loan from the personal menagerie of King Nur-Adad of Babylon. Abzu will remain in Ada-Kar for two years. It is hoped that during this time Tiamat will conceive an offspring.
The exhibit is scheduled to be completed in less than three months. As the time nears, there is little doubt that the conflict will continue. A candlelight vigil held outside the gates of the menagerie every Saturday night has been steadily growing over the last few weeks. The vigils have started drawing counter-protestors as well. It is reported that harsh words were exchanged between the two groups last Saturday, and that police will be on scene this weekend to deter escalation.