Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Manila Zoo Anyone?

Not long ago, the fam and I made a minor expedition to the Manila Zoo, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been to some of the largest, most advanced zoos in the world, and of course the menagerie in Manila does NOT compare to them. However, the Manila Zoo DOES have its laudable attributes—compactness and low cost to name a couple.

The last American zoo I visited was Philadelphia’s. It’s huge. It must have a sampling of nearly every animal on earth in there, and after paying nearly $20 a person; I was determined to see every imprisoned creature in the place! For that kind of moolah, I felt a real need to get my money’s worth. SO, I walked every lane, looked into all the enclosures, and read every placard. I was going to see every mammal, bird and reptile in there if it KILLED ME! …And it very nearly did—my dogs were on fire after four hours, and STILL I hadn’t seen it all.

I did not have this problem in Manila. The cost was less than a dollar per adult, and just 20 cents for each of my girls. Since there were 5 adults and 2 kids, the low price was VERY important. In Philly, the same group would have cost me over a $100! Ouch!

The Zoo in Manila is tiny, and I appreciated that. With two little girls in tow, spending most of a day getting lost and tired in a huge big city zoo was not on my agenda. Just the same, my girls loved it. The animals captivated them, and I was just as enthralled watching my girls watch the animals. For me, the critters were secondary to watching my OWN little critters—my “rug rats.” I wonder what the Latin name is for “rug rats?”

Not too far from the entrance, I noticed an enclosure with a small herd of some kind of brown deer-like creature—I believe it was the Philippine Deer. Whatever they were, I walked up to the wire fence for a closer look. One of the deer, a female I think, hurried over to me and stopped next to a place in the fence where the wires were worn and pulled apart. I said hello to her, and she pushed the side of her head right up against the open spot. I cooed to her and her long ears twitched; she seemed to be waiting for some attention.

I purred sweetly to her, “Do you want me to scratch behind your ears?” I spent the next five minutes rubbing the mesmerized animal behind her ear. She seemed starved for affection, and I was just the guy to give it to her! I finally heard my wife yelling at me to get back over with the rest of them…Oops! I told my “dear deer” goodbye, and left her staring longingly after me. I know she was, because I glanced back and saw her ogling me intently. No way would that happen in an American zoo! Well, maybe in a petting zoo.

Much of the place is like that—if you want to get up close to God’s creatures, the Manila zoo lets you do it. Sometimes a little too close; the crocodilian section contains scores of alligators, crocs and turtles. You don’t want to pick up your kids so they can see better, just in case you get butter fingers and drop ‘em—up-see-daisy--instant crocodile buffet!

My girls were especially fascinated by all the monkeys, and so was I, once I got to the very end of the row of monkey pens. There, in a circular cage of vertical iron bars was a huge female orangutan. She was THE most fascinating being in the zoo. I probably think so, because she is so much like us. She sat hardly moving, Jaba-the-Hut style, along the edge of her cage next to a concrete feeding platform. Now here’s the good part—a small white and grey cat lay atop the platform, and the cat was completely at ease with her big monkey buddy.

The orangutan seemed to take great comfort in the cat’s presence. With hands twice the size of a man’s; the giant monkey tenderly stroked the sleeping feline. In response, the napping cat stretched contentedly, never opening her eyes. She completely trusted her giant companion.

We watched the sweet show, utterly absorbed at the unlikeliness of it. We were just a few feet
from the cage, almost close enough to lean over the short fence and touch them. There were maybe 10 of us peering at those two mismatched pals, and we remarked to each other in hushed voices. There was a feeling of being honored to be so close to such a remarkable scene. We lingered there far longer than at any other spot, moving on only when the girls became restless.
We headed up around the bend toward the big cat corrals, and about that time the typical flood of locals swept in. As I remarked in an earlier post, folks here tend to time their visits to most anyplace so that EVERYONE arrives at once. It was no different at the zoo. Right around 10 a.m. about ten buses full of rambunctious children descended upon us. From the elevated hillside walkway, we looked back and down at the orangutan cage, but it was shielded by structures and foliage.

When the unruly kids reached the orangutan, I heard them start to scream and shout. I cringed. Sure enough, I heard the large previously passive ape start to shriek; she was obviously infuriated. The kids merely laughed and screamed louder. They were probably throwing things at her to get a reaction. I heard another angry shriek and I felt sick. I’m glad I didn’t have to actually see that ugly display, because I might have done something inappropriate. At first, I had greatly appreciated being able to get so close to her, because in most of the world’s city zoos, the animals are protected from mean or ignorant people like those unsupervised children. After I heard the angry cries from that poor beast, now I say put her behind plexiglass well out of the throwing range of kids. It was a disgrace; it made me ashamed to be human.

All the tigers and lions looked dead. My girls glanced at them and said so. They lay stretched flat on the ground and didn’t twitch an ear. To the left and down below that upper path are the ponies and horses. My girls loved them. Man, horses certainly can make a lot of dung. A man and a little boy, both wearing rubber boots up to their knees, were attempting to muck out the huge pile of horse leavings. You won’t see THAT in a zoo in the U.S.!

The last animal we observed, and with great interest, was the elephant. We lucked out and got to watch that medium sized jumbo eat its brunch. The keepers spread out an assortment of goodies over the concrete in front of its shelter—melons, carrots, bananas, apples, bunches of green grass, and heads of cabbage. It was interesting to see the pachyderm's eating technique. It was an "eat around the plate" routine, so to speak. That four legged eating machine ate all of one thing, then all of another, then all of the next, and so on.

I know people like that—they eat all their potatoes first, then all their corn
, and finally the main entrée. It was amusing to see the elephant eat exactly the same way. I’m sure it went for its favorite food first, and then the next most favorite, and so on, until all that was left was the grass. Finally, even the long stemmed grass was munched down too. I assume it was a “he,” because he ate exactly like a half-starved guy, and didn’t take a break until the last morsel had disappeared from the end of its curled trunk into its nonstop-chewing mouth. That elephant was a pig!

For the most part, I like the Manila Zoo. I recommend it. Your kids will definitely love it.


Ed said...

Your story brings out the happy and sad emotions I feel everytime I visit the zoo. Humans can be so cruel.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Yup, you hit the nail on the head, Ed...

Kevin said...


As you might imagine, my vote for best zoo ever is the St. Louis Zoo. It's FREE. No S$^!. Absolutely free. Lots and lots of rich benefactors contribute to the cause, so admission is free. Some good historical things there as well. The aviary dates back to the 1904 Worlds Fair. The zoo, in fact was built up around the aviary after the fair was finished. Also, remember "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom", with Marlon Perkins? He was based in St. Louis and in charge of the zoo all during the time of that TV show. As I remember, Sunday night was the big night for TV. We watched "Wild Kingdom" then "Wonderful world of Disney" after that. Then it was bedtime.

Anyway, St. Louis has the best zoo anywhere. San Diego, Philly, Detroit, whatever.

Jonathan said...

and you just left that deer?

it is sitting there, waiting for the love only you can give it.

that is why the cost is so low, because the extra 19 dollars goes to professional creature pet'rs whose sole job it is to scratch behind the ears of the animals.

with out you, those animals go wanting for love and attention.

much like disney land's california adventure



this place sounds a lot like the iowa zoo, big enough to appease those who love fauna, low enough cost (7USD) and big enough for a hearty walk about to see animals most the day, or a quick skim through in 2 hours time.

now sea world, that is a high ticket adventure.

but you have to think, those whales have to be fed somehow.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Kevin....I believe you, especially when you figure in the cost ratio!

Cents : Animal view Priceless!

Oh, and it must be said also that Kevin lives in Saginaw, Michigan, not St Louis...more credibility?

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hey Jonathan....I notice your sounding exactly like a Limey with the cute quips! (And I say Limey in the best sense of the word!) That's okay, I can take it....Yup, I'm a hit and run deer teaser. Wham bam thank you maam!

The Manila Zoo, if you walk real slow, might take you almost an hour to see it, but as I said, you definitely get your money's worth.

I'm with you. I think I like the Sea Worlds and Acquariums better than the zoos. Or, I can just go to Puerto Galera and be IN the acquarium!

ijeannie said...

I was born in the Philippines, but grew up in America. It is nice to see what life is like in the Philippines. I would love to visit my family there, someday. My mom's whole side of the family still lives there. I love your photos.

Amadeo said...

Yes, Manila Zoo. Evokes just hazy memories made during my school days in Manila. But growing up in PI, that was the apex of our collective experiences with wild exotic animals. To go to Manila and see the zoo.

Phil, experience also the local wonders. The Philippine eagle, the largest in the world in wingspan. The tiny tarsiers in Bohol. The tamaraw, of course. What about the smallest fishes in warm Lake Buhi? Almost microscopic.

In our area, they just found a couple of the rarest of the shark species. Yes, the mega-mouthed shark!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hi Jeannie, welcome aboard! Glad you liked the pics and MY version of what life is like here. There are many, mostly depending on financial status. Stay tuned. I'll check your profile and see if you have a site. Stay safe!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Amadeo, I fear the Philippines has something in common with China. Both countries, and many others, are more concerned about economic concerns than preserving their environment. There isn't much of a balance at all, and there should be. The governments of these nations "mouth" the words when it comes to environmental concerns, but that's as far as it goes. Fishermen still eat every fish they catch and loggers continue to clear cut. Worse than that is the government does nothing to manage it, and usually on the local level, officials are getting their "cut." Its depressing. Read my La Union trip post about the sad state of the underwater life in that beautiful area.....I'll never go back after what I saw....what a shame.

Nick Ballesteros said...

My first visit to the Manila Zoo was in the early 90s when I was but a few months in Manila. My uncle brought me there. The zoo then was in a sad state. Unkept cages were all over the place. There was a major renovation done to it in the mid-90s I believe. And they now have a petting zoo. Thanks to this post, I'm thinking of visiting the zoo again.

There's another zoo north of manila called Avilon (or Avalon?) Zoo, where the animals live in a "natural" habitat vs concrete walls and floors. Haven't been there, but it's a recommended visit by friends.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hey Wat, I saw that natural style zoo on the internet when I was surfing. I might check it out sometime for the kids. I've been to so many zoos of all kinds that the only reason I would go anymore is for my girls. They love animals so much at this age.

I won't take them to a petting zoo. Too unsanitary for little ones. The problem is fecal matter. Adults don't put their hands to their mouths, but kids do without a thought, and that's where the problems lie with petting zoos. There's literally crap everywhere!