THIS IS A TRANSLATED, UPDATED VERSION OF THIS SWEDISH POST!
One day while still in Bangkok my fiancee and I visited the Dusit Zoo. I always enjoy visiting zoo’s because I love animals and I love taking pictures of them, too.
It was quite a hassle getting there, as usual. No taxi wanted to take us. Oh didn’t know where it was, and I certainly didn’t know either – I haven’t learned to find my way in this massive city yet, I do intend to, but that’s a project for the future. So anyway, Oh asked a taxi driver who just said no to driving if it was far.” Yes, yes, and besides this traffic right now… and yada yada ” was the answer. As usual. If you haven’t read this post I’ll quickly explain to you I’m extremely confused about the taxi situation in Bangkok, since it seems they don’t want to take you anywhere, because it’s either too far, too much people or too much traffic. And sometimes it’s even too hot. The excuses are so many, so often I wonder why they even bother being taxi drivers at all, if they themselves want to decide where to drive all the time!
The next victim Oh approached was a sweet old tuktuk driver. He smiled at us when Oh asked if he could take us to Dusit Zoo and just nodded. Just before we jumped in Oh asked how much he wanted for the drive (out of pure joy that someone had finally said yes he almost forgot this important question). “80 baht” the small man answered, and Oh laughed while asking me: “Do you really think it’s that far? 80 baht???” Well, like I’ve said, sometimes I get completely confused, because apparantly here we had a classic Bkk drive – around the corner and no traffic! Perfect. But STILL no one would take us! I don’t get it!
It turned out it wasn’t really that close after all. The tuktuk ride took almost 10 minutes, so well, it was close, but whatever, I don’t know, I just have to state once more I’m very confused about this phenomena.
Well, what to say? Sweden has incredibly beautiful Zoo’s, and I do really hope all Swedes understand that and really appreciate it. This is something we, Swedes, take for granted; having a beautiful, clean Zoo where all the animals are able to run free in enormous spaces, and fields. Although we take it for granted, other countries don’t. Especially not Asia.
I’ve visitied Zoo’s in Nepal (Kathmandu), China (Guilin), and Japan (Kyoto), so I’ve seen a few, although not many. Sometimes a few is all you need to get discouraged. Really. In all of the above mentioned cases I was in tears during my visit and walked away with a very heavy heart.
Guilin Zoo, China
In Guilin, China, the bears – of which they had many races – had extremely small cages, decorated only with concrete. One of the bears, which had its own cage, by the way, was sitting up straight with his back against the fence in the back of the cage. The cage was barely wide enough for 2 of his kind and narrow. The look the bear gave me when he met my eyes broke my heart and I still remember it today, even though it was almost 20 years ago. Tormented and accusingly he looked me deep into my eyes without folding. I felt ashamed, and didn’t really know what to do. I wanted to let him out, obviously, free him from all that fracking concrete which was all around him, and let him go home. Naturally I did nothing!
In Nepal it was dusty and dirty, of course. Kathmandu is a very dusty/sandy city, since it’s so dry during periods of the year. The only Zoo in Kathmandu is in the part called Patan (or rather city, if we’re to be specific, since Kathmandu is really part of 3 different cities: Kathmandu, Patan and Bakhtapur, but this isn’t really a Kathmandu lesson, now is it?). The locals make excursions to the park and enjoy sitting there, having picnics. The animals? Well, small dirty cages and not so inspiring. My local friends seemed to think the Zoo was/is amazing! I, however, didn’t experience anything as bad here, but I still walked away feeling rather sad.
Kyoto Zoo, Japan. Well, I did expect something special, one of a kind. Something extravagant, something flashy, cool, something Japanese! What I got to see was just embarrassing, sad and so fracking crappy! The cages were in the same style as in China – not too surprising, though. Too much concrete and not enough plants. The water in the ponds in the cages didn’t look very clean and there were feces everywhere in the cages. Didn’t seem as if someone was particularly interested in cleaning anywhere.
The most heartbreaking here was a lion couple – a female and a male – who were shaking underneath a concrete stairway. They were both very skinny.
No, Japan didn’t have a nice Zoo in Kyoto, unfortunately. Maybe there is one in Tokyo, I don’t know. I’ll guess that’s a project I have to commit myself to in the future.
Ölands’ Zoo/Ölands Djurpark, Sweden
In Sweden I’ve actually had one bad experience regarding Zoo’s and that was when I as an adult paid a visit to Ölands Djurpark (Öland’s Zoo). I had a childhood memory of it, and it was magical, of course; most of the happy memories from the childhood are magical, aren’t they?;)
I was there in 2002 and it was dirty and miserable and shabby. It looked as though noone could even be bothered in looking after the Zoo. Tragic!
Nose-against-nose with my absolute favourite
I did however have an incredibly wonderful nose-against-nose-experience with a tiger there, so because of this I’m not all hostile towards Öland’s Zoo. How it happened? I was standing peeping through a side window, which didn’t have any glass panes; there was only 3 thin vertical iron bars, so the hole where I stuck my head in was open. All of a sudden the tiger, which I was looking for, because it had disappeared out of my sight, came jumping up where I stood. Putting his paws just across me, slightly touching my hands. His nose was only a few centimeters away from my nose and he sniffed the air inquisitively. After about a minute he got bored and jumped down, moved along. I was left standing feeling incredibly lucky having had this close encounter with this amazing, magnificent animal. Tigers are my absolute favourite animal and the fact we’ve drawn such shame over our heads by exterminating all tiger races is such a shameless act I can’t even find the right words for this atrocity! Oh, right, there are a few left, that’s right, so what am I crying about?
Just fine for Asia?
But this day in Bangkok we ended up in a completely fine Zoo, fine according to Asian standards, that is. Or I might’ve become blind. There were still these too small spaces for the animals, especially considering how large the park really is, where so much space is not even used, only for storing odd decorations, with no function what so ever.
Now they’re rebuilding – huge parts were under reconstruction and they were also building a lot of new stuff, so it might turn out much better. I will pay another visit in a year or so to update myself. And you, of course.
The water for the animals, the water kept for swimming, that is, was dirty and disgusting, and the hippos for example didn’t have any green plants in their environment. So that was sad. Besides, there weren’t any real plants inside of the terrarium, either. Oh thought it was pretty obvious – how can any plants grow in that environment, so dark and miserable, as it was!? 😉
So Dusit Zoo has a lot to improve – of course! But it’s not the worse I ever saw.
Worst event – EVER!!!!!!
However, I did experience the worst thing ever!!!! I’m speaking about my own traumatic experience with my camera!
We started the visit by buying 2 loafs of bread to feed the fish. Oh finds that enjoyable. Oh is a very simple person, amused by the simplest pleasures. Kind of like me. Put me down with a couple of packs of buttons and I’ll be happy for hours!!!
The fish was incredibly large and cool, so I had to shoot away some photos.
Nope, that’s right, alright!
But suddenly I see this giant lizard – an iguana – swimming just a few meters away. Shit! I had to get that one on photo! But oh no – my camera battery just dies! What??? That never happened to me before. I was even sitting just a couple of days before sneering at this tip I read about having an extra battery with you at all times. Of course you make sure to charge the battery BEFORE you go photo hunting, and to be honest, it doesn’t run out that quickly. Yeah, right!
I managed to get a photo with my iPhone… you might be able to discern that tiny little spot swimming over there!
So I had to spend the rest of the time in the Zoo, which was all the time spent there, WITHOUT a camera. Shooting with my iPhone only pissed me off more, so that wasn’t an option. So, now I understand what it feels like walking around in the Zoo and NOT being an amateur trigger happy photographer… not that much fun.
Life’s just so much more exciting and interesting with a camera in your hand!!!