If there’s one thing that gets me excited, it’s ANIMALS. I love watching animals interact with each other – seeing them play, fight, eat, and sleep. I also love having unique animal interactions because it’s a chance to get up and personal with a creature that I normally don’t encounter in my every day life. So, one weekend, I recruited my friend Bonnie to check out the Shanghai Wild Animal Park with me.
In Shanghai, there are actually two “zoos” – the Shanghai Zoo (上海动物园) in Changning District, and the Shanghai Wild Animal Park (野生动物园) in Pudong. I did not visit the Shanghai Zoo so I can’t really compare between the two and can only speak about my experience at the Wild Animal Park. And my experience there was FUN but also made me feel very conflicted, as I will elaborate on later in this post…
But first, some tips for you on how to get the most out of your experience! My first tip to getting your ideal zoo experience is to get there early! Shanghai is a HUGE city and it took nearly 3 hours to get to the actual park by metro from Fudan University, so even though we left at a respectable time, it was nearly 1:00pm when we arrived at the zoo. Like most zoos, many of the “animal encounters” and other events occur in the morning, so if you get there late, you’ll already have missed out. Also, note that there is a metro stop called “Shanghai Wild Animal Park”, but after you exit the metro station, you still have to take a bus/taxi to reach your destination.
Also, this is the only attraction that I have been to in China where they did NOT accept my Fudan University student ID card as “proof” of being a student. They wanted to see the red student “passport”-looking thing which has enrollment dates inside. For some reason, Bonnie (my Taiwanese friend) had one but I didn’t, despite the fact that we are both international students. And after inquiring with my program director, she told me that international students don’t get one of these red student thingies. So I don’t know how Bonnie got one and I didn’t! And so, I had to pay full price which was 130 RMB. The student discount is half price, so I was VERY SAD because I ACTUALLY AM A STUDENT!! Boo.
If you love animal encounters, bring some extra cash! There are SO many different encounters to enjoy such as taking pictures with a parrot, feeding an elephant, feeding tigers/lions (yes really), brushing the teeth of a hippo(???), going into the petting zoo, and holding a tiger cub. Each “encounter” is 30 RMB which is really quite affordable, and if you have the cash and the time you can really do everything! They don’t limit you or anything like that.
The first animal encounter that we participated in was taking pictures with parrots. I saw a little boy pose for a picture, with a Scarlet Macaw perched on his arm. He looked so happy! These interactive elements must be really exciting for kids (as they are for me!).
I also got the chance to feed fruits to elephants. When I entered the feeding area, a group of feeders had just left, so the elephants didn’t seem very interested in me. The zookeeper then went into the enclosure and yelled at the elephant to get him to come back to the feeding station. 😦 This made me feel sad. I was willing to wait for the elephant to come back on his own volition… Nevertheless, I’ve never been so close to an elephant, so when he reached his trunk towards me, I got very excited! Thanks Bonnie for taking these great pictures of me!
There was a scheduled Tiger Feeding “show”, so we curiously headed to the Tiger enclosure. Whenever I go to the zoo, it seems like most animals are sleeping or lazying around… and that’s why I like to catch these feeding times whenever I can! It’s a great opportunity to see animals do something other than sleeping, and the zookeeper usually offers interesting animal facts, so it becomes an educational experience.
This feeding “show” did not disappoint. The zookeepers dangled pieces of meat over the enclosure, which encouraged the tigers to jump up to grab the meat, or to climb a pole to reach the food. I saw a tiger swiftly scale a pole like a house cat to reach his reward. Another made a huge leap from a platform, adeptly caught the chunk of meat in his jaws, and splash-landed in the pool of water, to the delight of onlookers, who eagerly pressed their faces against the glass in admiration. I’ve never seen tigers move like this (or at all really) at any other zoo I had ever been to, so I was VERY excited. It was inspiring to see these powerful predators in action.
While watching the “show”, I kept thinking that this would never be allowed in America, because of animal safety standards… or maybe complaints from the visitors? I wasn’t really sure if forcing tigers to jump and climb for the delight of the crowd would be considered animal cruelty or not… Since predators in the wild are constantly running, leaping, and climbing, I thought it was okay to provide these captive animals a way to exercise their mental and physical faculties.
But, our next animal encounter made me question whether or not the zoo had the animals’ best interests at heart…
For the same price as the other animal attractions, visitors could feed tigers and lions through the fence. They give you a cup with raw meat chunks, and a long metal skewer. You skewer the meat, and slide it between the chain link fence for the animal to eat.
Out of all the things I witnessed at that zoo, this is probably the one thing that made me feel a little sad. The tigers would literally follow you as you walked up and down the aisle. They seemed hungry and desperate for a treat (although in no way did they seem ill or hungry to the point of starving). Also, I saw some Chinese tourists offer the tigers and lions food from higher up, forcing them to stand up on their hind legs in order to retrieve the meat chunk. It’s not cool to tease an animal like that 😦
I heard rumors that you could also take pictures with a baby lion or tiger here. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a baby lion or tiger, so I was pretty excited to see these cute cuddlies sleeping in their enclosure! The tigers in the top picture were only a few days old! It turns out that although we arrived during the time listed, the baby tiger photo station closed early. I think the baby tiger was getting tired. So it’s good to see that it seems like the animals’ needs are being taken care of.
Next, we saw on the schedule that a racing show would start soon, so Bonnie and I headed to the stadium. On the way, we saw this:
Oh cool, horses! They will probably be racing in the show, and are heading to the stadium right now. How awesome! Wait, what are those things behind them?
Omg, camels too? AWESOME! I couldn’t contain my excitement, we rushed to the stadium and got settled in for the racing show.
First up were the horses. Seems pretty normal, right? The five horses and their jockeys were introduced, and then they took their places in the starting gates, and off they went!
Next came the camels. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know camels could run! I mean, in movies and such, they are slowly walking across the desert. It turns out, they trot at a respectable pace. Oh, and their humps swing from side-to-side as they trot!
Next came the ostriches. Yes, ostrich. The animals seem well-trained, because they placed themselves at the starting gate. I got excited – I’ve never seen ostriches run at full speed before! But wait, what are those jockeys doing? … surely, they aren’t going to RIDE the ostriches? I mean, is that even possible?
It turns out, yes, possible. Because, China.
Ostriches are not the best racing animals. They tend to run in short bursts, then stop periodically and want to do something else. But wow, those skinny legs are STRONG! I have a newfound respect for ostriches.
Next were the dogs. Don’t worry, nobody rode the dogs! They were released from the starting gate, and trained to follow a dummy item that moved across the railing of the track. Dang, dogs are FAST!
And lastly, there was a single cheetah, to illustrate the speed of the fastest land animal on Earth. I couldn’t find any pictures of this, unfortunately 😦 But like the dogs, the cheetah was trained to follow the dummy item, which sped around the track at a much higher speed than the dogs’ to be able to encourage the cheetah to run at its optimal speed. The cheetah zipped around the track in seconds. Amazing!
(Don’t worry, before bringing out the cheetah, the crew took precaution and set up extra gates at the starting line area. There’s no need to feel alarmed.)
Next was the “Safari” ride through the animal exhibits. Like other safari zoos, you sit on a bus, and they drive you into exhibits of lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) and other animals. A Safari ride is included in your ticket, but you can choose to pay a little extra money and upgrade to a “better” experience. Bonnie and I chose to upgrade, and I can’t remember how much the this upgrade cost 😦 In my opinion, this upgrade wasn’t really worth it. In the upgraded buses, there aren’t rows of seats like a regular bus; instead, there’s a bench in the middle of the vehicle, and you can get up and walk around the bus so you theoretically have a better view than if you were on the normal busses. The driver will also periodically stop the car and throw food out the window (lol) to encourage animals to come closer.
On the safari ride, we passed enclosures of bears (various kinds), lions, tigers (the orange kind AND the white kind), giraffes, deer, etc. The variety in animal was really good, and there were LOTS of animals in each enclosure – though the enclosures themselves were very large.
However, thanks to my stinky luck, the animals always seemed to be on the other side of the bus from where I was, and the other people on the bus always blocked my view… which is why I feel like I could have gotten a similar experience without paying for the “upgraded” busses 😦 Sad.
That pretty much wraps up my visit to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park! Overall, it was an amazing experience for an animal lover such as myself. I got to try unique animal encounters that I normally would never have had the chance to experience at a zoo in the US. And the animals all looked like they were taken care of. However, one thing that bothered me about my China zoo experience is that some of the Chinese visitors did not seem to treat the animals with respect – for example, they would tease the lions with food, or let their small children scream at the sleeping baby tigers 😦 I hope the next generation of Chinese citizens grow up with better respect and understanding of animals so that this cruel behavior is eliminated in the future.