To soothe giraffes spooked by the noise from fireworks set off to celebrate the New Year, Amersfoort Animal Park in Utrecht in the Netherlands plans to have them tune into public Radio 2 to hear the Top 2000 countdown. As the park’s spokeswoman Josien van Eijik told Agence France-Presse (via Raw Story), “We found that pop music works best to calm the animals down and the bangs become more background noise.”
There are five giraffes among the 130 animals in the park and only the giraffes seem to be affected by the noise. The staff have started to play the music prior to today so the giraffes can get used to it. While noting that they have so far shown no particular preferences for music, Van Eijk speculated that “‘a calm ballad every now and then also would not do any harm.’”
Agence France-Presse says there are so many fireworks in the Netherlands to celebrate New Year’s that it’s a “pyrotechnics frenzy that turns some city streets into virtual battlefields” and that some owners medicate their pets to calm them. New Year’s Eve fireworks are nowhere that intense in our suburban New Jersey town; Fourth of July is when things can get very noisy with fireworks going off in celebrations all over, not to mention not so far away in New York City.
Fireworks are definitely an issue for my son Charlie who — like many on the autism spectrum – has unusual responses to sensory stimuli and especially to noises that are loud and high-pitched, noticeably more so now as a teenager. He has hypersensitive hearing and plants his hands firmly over his ears on hearing an airplane go by far overhead and when we walk into a store and he hears the buzz of overhead lights. After much trial and error with different sorts of headphones, we have learned that Charlie doesn’t care to wear them — that he wants not so much to block out sounds, as to filter them; he seems to use sound and music to do this. Charlie likes to listen to music on his iPad and anyone in the vicinity (mostly my husband and me as Charlie only uses the iPad at home) hears what he’s hearing. Sometimes he puts an album on a repeating loop. When he does so, the choices tend to be pop-ish (we’ve heard a few too many rotations of the instrumentals from Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys in the past week).
Playing the music for the giraffes in Amersfoort Animal Park sounds (apologies for an unintended pun) like a good solution to soften the boom of the fireworks. But, thinking of the animals whose owners are said to be drugging them to calm them amid all the noise, one wonders if the fireworks have gotten out of hand and it’s high time to think of a quieter, less agitating way to celebrate the New Year. The giraffes and other animals at Amersfoort Animal Park are (literally) a captive audience to the fireworks: Noise pollution is invisible, but its effects are very real.
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