Sunday, June 12, 2011

Colombo: Dehiwala Zoo

I love going to zoos so I was glad to find out that Colombo had a pretty big national zoo.  While we didn't end up going to the zoo in Cairo, this zoo was easily a higher quality zoo, but nowhere near the zoo standards most Americans are used to.  One of the biggest shocks was the entry price.  Most places in Sri Lanka have two separate prices: one for residents and one for foreigners.  Not surprisingly the foreigner entry price is always higher, sometimes 10-20 times more than for locals.  This was definitely the case here where locals paid about $1 to get in and we paid about $20 each!  I'm not quite sure it was definitely worth the high cost, but it was a fun way to pass the morning.

Most of the animals were caged as opposed to more open natural environments.  This was the worst part of the zoo because no one likes to see animals housed in too small spaces.

 Brown bears and other North American animals are always fun to see because we're so used to thinking of them in the wild rather than in the zoo.  They also had porcupines, a squirrel!, and a few other common animals.

The landscaping around the zoo was really pretty, but there didn't seem to be any way for the zoo to expand because everything was packed really close together.

A duck!

Big cats in small cages.  There was definitely not enough space for them, and they were all housed in groups of two, so they had to share the space even!

The elephants were hands down the worst part of the zoo.  All of them were chained up on their front and back legs so not only could they not move around hardly at all, but also it looked like they didn't even have enough chain to be able to stand comfortably.

Every now and then, they'd unchain the biggest elephants and let them walk around, but I think it was just so that they could use them to move around heavy logs.  They also had the terrible ankle pokers and you can see that they do seem to use them to control the elephants.

We were going to visit the Pinewalla Elephant Orphanage on our way to Kandy, but after seeing how poorly elephants were treated here, we didn't want to pay an outrageous amount to see elephants poked, prodded, and controlled inhumanely.

This baby chimp was pretty active and was swinging all over the enclosure.  It especially liked the tire swing, but I couldn't get a good picture of that mischief.

I don't remember the name of these animals, but those twisty antlers are something else!

This is one wrinkly, lumpy giraffe.  I've never seen one that is so lumpish, and I'm hoping it's not a result of poor treatment or diet.

Not all of the park was sad; there were so many huge trees throughout the zoo.  These trees must have been standing long before the zoo, so the inclusion of natural foliage and these huge trees was really beautiful.  Sri Lanka seemed to do a really decent job keeping old, huge trees standing.  It was something we saw not only at the zoo, but also all throughout the country.

Another sad, sad animal.  It's painfully easy to see that this lion is super skinny and probably not getting enough of the right food.  They had 4 or 5 lions and they all looked like this.

This was the extent of the Bengal tiger enclosure. The lion enclosures looked pretty sparsely similar.

While this wasn't the most uplifting experience, it makes all of the zoos we've seen in the US look even that much better.  It's a great experience for kids to get to go to the zoo, but it makes me wonder if it really is worth it if so many animals seem to be living so poorly. This is what zoos all used to be like and hopefully more and more zoos will get with the program and start upgrading their enclosures, and the care of the animals in general. At least we got the sense here that the keepers cared about the animals, but simply didn't have the resources or training to do a better job, unlike what we heard about and saw at the Cairo Zoo, where at least some of the keepers just don't care about the animal's welfare at all.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah kids, great photos as usual! Looks like a very interesting and different style of vacation, I hope you enjoyed it and came back smarter.

    The conditions in the zoo certainly look dismal, but what were general living conditions like for the people of Sri Lankans? It would be odd is a poor country had a plush zoo next to human slums.

    Looking forward to seeing you both!