At that moment, I had no idea that, 17 days later,[…] will undergo an revengeful attack by poaching militia …

        Zoo Berlin was opened in 1844; it was Germany’s first and Europe’s ninth zoo, where most animals were donated by the then king of Prussia Frederick William IV. The idea of “the public zoo”, which was not a menagerie for kings and princes to show off their collections, not a market to trade animals, and not a circus, was new to the public. In the same year, philologist Friedrich Nietzsche was born in a small town near Leipzig; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels met in Paris before becoming fathers of Marxist theory; Annual iron production in England reached 3 million tons; the anonymously written “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation” was published and later sold 11 reprints, which paved the way for the acceptance of Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species”; and the creator of modern zoo specifications, Carl Hagenbeck, was born to an fishmonger who ran a side business trading exotic animals. …

        In 1952, American experimental musician John Cage’s 4’33″ premiered, the three-movement composition was later described as “four minutes and 33 seconds of silence”, in response to which, Cage said, “They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence.”…

        John Cage composed music without writing down a music note, I assume there could also be a kind of noise that is quieter than silence. Five minutes would have allowed your eyeballs to be rolled for several times and the screen refreshed for a few rounds, some Facebook messages you sent that have been read but not yet responded. Five minutes later, the light sleeper okapi shall wake up for the sixth times during the day. If you play the composition 4’33” in the okapis’ native Ituri rain forest in the Republic of the Congo, what’s going to take over your hearing is the “green noise” that ranges from 40 dB to 60 dB, which roughly equates to the buzzing of an old A/C. Any sound that is more than 20 dB could awake a sleeping human being, but on the contrary; the green noise safeguarded okapis’ very limited sleep quality and its neurotic vulnerability. …

        In early summer 2012, I saw a five-year old okapi named Steve in Zoo Berlin. Unsurprisingly, he spent most of the day alone, slowly casually chewing on fresh leaves from the bushes. His butt muscles were firm and rounded up. At that moment, I had no idea that, 17 days later, in the okapis’ distant home forest, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Ipulu, Congo, would undergo an revengeful attack by poaching militia, the 14 okapis and six human beings living there would be shot dead, and 28 women, including minors, would be taken hostage.

   
Recomposed from the chapters “4' 33" Light Sleep of the Okapi” & “(West) Berlin Zoo: Life on This Crowded Planet”
The Grand Zoo was Written and photographed by M. Nadia Ho