Ever since it first opened its doors in July 1959, (making it 52 years old this year) Manila Zoo has become a well-loved landmark in this side of the city. If you were born or raised in this metropolis of Manila, chances are you’ve been to this place at least once in your life. Speaking from my personal recollections, I remember my visits there as I got to see various animals, as well as close encounters like me feeding the giraffe once.
For its time, Manila Zoo was considered the best zoo experience in this part of the city, with the amenities and the variety of animals found there. I guess I was lucky to have experienced those Manila Zoo visits as a kid when it was still a “top” destination to go to. But as work and other things took priority as I grew up, my visits have become less frequent.
At the same time, the Manila Zoo has been going through a tough period as it has been experiencing problems on maintenance, animal welfare, among others. At the same time, Manila Zoo has found itself left behind as it did not “evolve” as it’s supposed to immediately to meet the changes and trends in zoo maintenance while pricier yet larger and well-equipped zoos with conducive environments outside the metropolis like Zoobic and Avilon have become the new models for the Philippine zoo. And if you’ve been keeping tabs with the online buzz, this recent item online sparked some heated discussions on the state of Manila Zoo.
With all the talk of the state of things in Manila Zoo today, I decided to check out for myself the situation in the zoo today. So one weekend I found myself back at Manila Zoo. And what I witnessed was a situation a bit more complicated than what it seems.
With an area of 5.5 hectares and more than a hundred species of fauna present and flora present, (it is after all formally known as the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden) Manila Zoo should be a showcase of how man can take care of nature and wildlife. Unfortunately, Manila Zoo has been stuck with the old ways of zookeeping which don’t hold true anymore. I guess one factor here is the zoo still trying to keep the admission fees low (much lower like a 50% discount if you’re a Manila resident) but scrimping on maintenance as payback of sorts.
Come to think about it, it could also be considered a payback that the zoo is offering a separate facility with separate and higher rates called the Kinder Zoo. Here at the Kinder Zoo, you get to interact with various animals up close and have photos taken with them. (you can have a photographer take your photo and have it printed which is another extra charge)
In fairness I didn’t see much of animals in poor condition, save for this fellow which seems to be suffering from “baldness.” (if such is the term for birds losing its feathers) Don’t know what the zookeepers are doing about this.
And this monkey that got out of its cage.
But I think the biggest “crime” of Manila Zoo’s personnel is that they do not seem to educate the people on how to relate to the animals. There are people tapping the glass of the “lairs” of reptiles and snakes, using flash photography where it should not be allowed, throwing trash at the tigers’ den below, feeding monkeys when it should be strictly monitored if not disallowed. I guess you have an idea of what I’m rambling here. Shame that the zoo does not provide food items so visitors can properly feed some of the animals there.
But with all the problems of Manila Zoo, I still find some charm and beauty in the place. Maybe it’s out of nostalgia but being one of the few remaining spots in the metropolis itself that still has a refreshing atmosphere left, it will be a shame to see it go. And for some who may not have the time or luxury to go to far off Tagaytay or Montalban, it’s not going to be easy to deprive such an accessible place to them.
So many things have been suggested, but I think the number one thing Manila Zoo should do is to educate its personnel in teaching the visitors the proper way of interacting with animals. Personnel who would be there to tell them not to tap the glass lairs, not throwing trash anywhere, educate how to properly feed the animals, etc. With the state of things in our planet today, let the zoo be the starting point in creating awareness and educate people in preserving the natural richness of our home.
You can check out the full album of my Manila Zoo visit on this Facebook album.
© The Urban Roamer