If I imagine the ideal zoo for animals it would include multi-species enclosures, spacious, physically rich habitats for the animals to exhibit natural behaviors and enrichment provided throughout the day including food and toy challenges.
If I imagine the ideal zoo for visitors I think of a zoo where opportunities to interact with the animals are frequent, enclosures are built to provide optimal photography opportunities and animals are actively, in a non-stereotypical way, exploring their habitat.
Out of all of the zoological facilities that I had visited in Thailand, a few weeks ago, the Chiang Mai zoo was the closest to achieving my vision of an idyllic zoo. The enclosures were sophisticated with water features, ample shelter and I was able to get close enough to the animals to take high quality photos with my low-quality camera.
What made this zoo accelerate to the top of my list were its animal feeding opportunities and enrichment schedule. The enrichment schedule really won me over when I saw the taxonomic range. The list included animals that we would desire enrichment items for such as seals, elephants, primates and charismatic birds such as macaws, cockatoos, emu and hornbills. The list even included crocodiles and red-eared sliders, a group of animals often left out in accredited U.S. institutions.
Feeding opportunities were very frequent and based on the honor system. At designated enclosures a secured donation box was anchored on a table that contained small trays of vegetables or fruit depending on the designated animal. For the equivalent of 30 cents to $2 USD per tray, I was able to feed an elephant, hippo (30 cents!), deer, goats, giraffes, sheep, waterfowl, flamingos, red jungle fowl and emus. For $2 USD I was able to feed a jaguar a piece of meat off a skewer (there was a staff member present at this exhibit).
This system of having part of the zoo animals?diet in front of the enclosure, inviting the public to help feed them, is very resourceful. How many times have you witnessed guests at a zoo taping on the glass or throwing junk food into an exhibit? The major reason why people tap on the glass is to get the animal to move, so they can snap a photo or observe them doing a natural behavior. By giving guests the chance to feed the animals the appropriate food, it eliminates many of the bad habits zoo guests have. Bravo! I love this idea. The price was right and the range of options was also impressive. I feed every time it was an option.
Another highlight of my visit was their mixed species show which stared binturongs, wild hogs, river otters, pelicans, homing pigeons, macaws and my favorite a great hornbill. Foreign Relations Officer, Chatranart Ophas, tells me that it took a year for them to train the bird to do the free-flying routine and that his favorite treats include various fruits and beef. Jhao-khoon, the male hornbill I saw in the show did a flawless job including catching a piece of watermelon in the air as he flew through the stadium.
“Now, Chiang Mai Zoo, is home to over 2,100 animals from 325 different species,?Ophas said. Within the zoo a large aviary, Nakhonping Bird Park, is home to many avian species from around the world. The zoo itself sits at the bottom of Doi Suthep Mountain, with the aviary encompassing around 2.5 acres of the lower slopes. “That place will amaze you,?Ophas said.
Earlier this month on Friday July 3rd, near the Nakhonping aviary at the Crowned Crane House a crowned crane hatched which is the first time in 15 years. No reason why isn? clear yet ?but this may have been due to my visit four days prior!
Another section that impressed me was a line of sizeable breeding enclosures that included many types of unique hornbills, like white crowned and wreathed, and birds of prey. The crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela) and changeable hawk-eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus) were two species of unfamiliar birds of prey that I quickly become fervent with. Both group of birds sat close to the front of the exhibit and preened themselves as I took copious amounts of pictures.
August through the beginning of October is considered the rainy season for northern Thailand. Due to this fact it is also off peak tourist season and while the zoo is open daily from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm feeding and enrichment opportunities are limited during these months.
Want to travel some more? Check out these places!
#TravelTuesday: Help Birds Soar At Banham Zoo
#TravelTuesday: Visit The One And Only ZooMontana
#TravelTuesday: Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
#TravelTuesday: Avian Behavior International
#TravelTuesday: Encounter A World Of Birds At Tracy Aviary
#TravelTuesday: Paradise Wildlife Park
#TravelTuesday: Meet Prairie Chickens, Parrots & Pelicans At Caldwell Zoo
#TravelTuesday: Head To Mexico & Visit Xcaret Park
#TravelTuesday: Woodland Park Zoo & Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
#TravelTuesday: Visit Zoomarine