Big Changes at the Zoo

Note: Animal pictures below.

The weather was nice enough today after a nasty stretch of air to make it back to the zoo.

Any zoo is a favorite place of mine, and the Beijing Zoo has been my go-to place whenever I’ve felt homesick. Today was just a good chance to visit the animals after about six months away. I was surprised to find some substantive changes after such a short time.

For one, ticket prices dropped from 40 yuan to 10. Second, the zoo has put up more barriers and new cutesy signs to try to prevent feeding (and probably subsequent injury), which is nonetheless still popular among the locals, who bring bags of vegetables (me = guilty) and chicken guts and such as treats for the animals.

Finally, in just a few months the zoo has managed to tear down the old nasty bear enclosure, where I once watched the Asiatic black bear down bottle after bottle of coke just like a middle-aged American office worker while taking breaks to munch on the hot dogs with which he’d been pelted. In its place was built Bear Mountain, which has a trio of really pretty nice grassy and wooded enclosures. They are home to a bunch brown bear cubs and the old Asiatic black bears. Inside the new walkways, decorated with some native-people’s-style cave art, is a line of beautifully designed posters of bears doing bear things along with sayings like “Just like you I feel sadness, but I also keep striving to be happy” or “Just like you I need a family. Without my mother I would die” in both English and Chinese. It seems as if the management is pushing hard to relate the animals to humans. Although the consciousness regarding animals and their place in the world is changing rapidly, China still badly needs that kind of push so its good to see.

I could probably write a Friedman-esque think piece about how the evolving zoo represents China at large or something, but instead we’ll just say that I’mhappy to see the progress. I really do think its a good portent for the future.

Anyway, here’s a few pictures I snapped.


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