San Diego Zoo’s Maori dancer blunder could have been avoided so easily, it’s laughable

29 May 2018

San Diego Zoo’s Maori dancer blunder could have been avoided so easily, it’s laughable

One may wonder whether to laugh or be worried by San Diego’s Zoo cultural mix-up this week.

During the opening of an Australian exhibition, typically featuring iconic ‘Aussie’ creatures including kangaroos and wallabies, there was another element that was definitely incongruous with that Australian theme: Maori dancers.

The mix-up has sparked outrage, but the first and strongest reaction has been incredulity.

Is it fair to assume that a zoo, whose job is to exhibit animals of the world for purposes of education would be competent enough to do at least a quick google search, before committing to the idea that wallabies and kangaroos are synonymous with New Zealand indigenous culture?

It really doesn’t take much to figure out that you’re dealing with two different countries here.

Upon being alerted to the obvious error by social media followers, the zoo responded by saying that Maoris are native to both Australia and New Zealand. Following the kerfuffle, the zoo apologised saying, “Our sincere apologies. We were given incorrect information.”

‘Incorrect information’ is absolutely right. ‘Given’ is the unbelievable part. Were there no bells ringing that said, at least to someone, ‘err, maybe we should check first…’?

Although the situation may raise a wry smile and call to mind the prophetic absurdity of popular rural-New-Zealand-meets-New-York sitcom, Flight of the Concords; it does reveal a disturbing undercurrent of cultural and geographic ignorance.

It is, quite simply, culturally incorrect. And it’s amazing how easily it could have been avoided.