Now at the Nanjing Zoo: Elephant eats Leopard!

20 09 2009

So yesterday (Saturday) was our first foray into Hongshan Zoo, Nanjing’s big zoo on the north side of the city (but still south of where we live). So for those who haven’t heard, Chinese zoos are infamous for poor conditions for the animals. The one in Nanjing, I think, is considered one of the better ones, though I have heard some fairly poor reviews from people about it. We thought we’d have a look for ourselves.
The zoo is only one metro stop down for us, so we caught the bus to the metro station and then road down. It was a short walk south from the metro stop. And the grounds of the zoo are beautiful. It’s covering a couple small hills, and lots of space is devoted to the usual lush foliage and greenery that Nanjing has tons of. We tried in vain to get a city card at the desk that would allow us access to more than just the zoo, but the lady working made it very apparent she didn’t know what we were asking and didn’t want to find out. So we paid the 30 yuan to get in.
After entering the zoo, you pass a large pond which was supposed to have flamingos in, but we didn’t see any, though there were people fishing there. After that, we walked for another five minutes, before we saw the “Panda Pavilion.” According to the map, the pandas were further on, but we turned anyway, and yes, this is where the pandas were. So we watched the pandas, and there was a crowd there, and they were cute and so on. I’ll attach a picture.
After that, we wandered on some more and passed a place playing bad ’90s dance music. This appeared to be the petting zoo, though it was walled off where you couldn’t see in. You had to pay extra to go in. Then we tried again to read the maps and turned up the hill, where we encountered a man and his kid on a camel you could just sit on, I guess? It was tied up, but didn’t really seem to have someone taking care of it. Then we passed a kid using the restroom outside (which appears to be a zoo specialty) before scaling an extremely steep set of steps to see the lions and tigers. Their cages were very, very small. Not as small as we would see, but considering the scale of the animals, they were pretty bad. And they were just concrete. There were several white tigers, which was neat, but they didn’t seem any more well-cared-for, despite their endangered status. We traveled on to see more beasts of prey who were in similar, often nonsensical cages. One with pumas had crazy devil rabbits painted on the wall behind it. I would include a picture, but since I can only upload a couple, I’ll save that for you to view on one of our photo albums. Oh by the way, off topic, we’re almost out of space on Flickr, so we’ll either A) Upgrade to Flickr Pro or open some other photo album you can view. News at eleven!
Anyway, the worst cage belonged to the wolf, who paced around in, oh, 10 square feet of space. Most dog owners wouldn’t give their dogs such a small space to get around it. We were pretty incensed about it – or as much as you can be when you already expected it on some level, but our anger was eased a little later when we saw that they had an area where the animals roamed around freely. Hopefully at least once a day. If not, I just hope that they eventually turn the tables on their owners, if you catch my drift.
At this point, we decided to check out the monkeys and the hippos. Now it’s hard to explain how chaotic and disorganized the structure of this zoo is without you seeing it, but the monkeys were sort of randomly placed throughout the zoo, and the hippos were stuck in some corner probably closer to the entrance than anywhere else, though you had to walk all the way around to get there. It didn’t help that the map didn’t have any rhyme or reason to it, or that the signs, often in Chinglish (the Chinese people’s special take on English grammar), didn’t make much sense either. Monkey Rill, here I come! And Monkey Rill was our next site to see. It really is Monkey Hill, by the way. To top it off, the icon for Monkey Rill had a picture of, that’s right, a monkey eating a plastic water bottle. That’s the photo the zoo put up to tempt viewers. So we walk over, and the monkeys have a gigantic space with big rocks in the middle and ropes everywhere. Fantastic. Then we look down and one of the monkeys is desperately trying to open a 20-oz Coca-Cola on what is essentially a balance beam. The fact that he was able to, but later ended up dropping the Coke without drinking most of it, is a testament to his ingenuity, but maybe not the quality of the conditions he lives in. I’m not sure whether the Coke was fresh, but since this is in China, I’m guessing it probably wasn’t ice cold. Missy captured a nice photo of a mother letting her small child dangle his feet over the edge of the wall to view the monkeys. Unlike in other parts of the zoo, you can probably be certain that the monkeys would take care of the child, were he to fall in.
After spending a bit more time watching kids throw monkeys food they bought at the local snack shop, we moved on to the hippos, which were anti-climactic, sadly, before watching some kids playing in these giant plastic bubble balls in the water. It’s hard to describe, but maybe I’ll send a video to the blog and hope it uploads. They were essentially giant clear plastic orbs which were tied to a rope that was attached to dry land, and the kids ran around inside the plastic balls. It probably was quite fun for the kids, though I’d argue it might not be the safest play toys ever. Oh, I almost forgot – there was a pretty big amusement park type area in the park. In fact, I’d probably go so far as to say it was more of a kid’s park which also happened to have wild animals. We did get to see an elephant, which was nice, since he came close to us and then blew some water at us when we didn’t feed him candy bars. (i’m guessing) Also, we saw some bears, which were begging customers for food. Probably ice cream bars, we’ll say. Bears love ice cream.
All in all, it was a beautiful park, and very large, but a poor zoo. I’ve heard there are far worse in China, though I don’t want to see them.

Pictures:
1. Pandas!
2. Child dangles in front of wild animals
3. Elephant, man
4. Lady, elegant architecture

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