Chiang Mai Zoo
Chiang Mai Zoo is located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai City at the base of Doi Suthep Hill. Walking to the zoo from the old city is possible but as the zoo covers almost 250 acres of forested hill side it is better to go by Sang Thaew or Tuk Tuk.
Although the collection is best seen on foot it is possible to get round using the monorail and the hop on hop off tram.
There are a wide range of species to see and there are some quite stunning and interesting exhibits. Of special mention are the Koala enclosures, the Panda House and the new Gibbon Islands.
The zoo is open every day from eight in the morning till nine in the evening. It is a double price entry with foreigners paying more for entrance.
Falang - 100 Baht
Falang child - 50 Baht
Thai - 50 Baht
The elderly, the very young, Monks, policemen and members of the armed forces get in free.
There are extra charges for the Aquarium and the Panda House.
It is a popular collection not just with locals but for the many thousands of tourists who visit Northern Thailand every year. The Giant Pandas, which have bred here, are extremely popular and the newly built Aquarium is proving to be a big hit too. Aside from the animal attractions there is a Snow Dome as well which is of great interest to the Thai people who never see snow in their homeland.
The Chiang Mai Zoo is one of the few of Thailands Zoos to be a member of the Zoological Park Organisation.
Chiang Mai Zoo Entrance
The base on which Chiang Mai Zoo was built was the private collection of an American missionary called Harold Mason Young. His was the first private zoo in Thailand and opened to the public circa 1952 in his garden at the edge of the city. As the collection grew it became obvious that he needed more land and so he put forward a request. He was given 30 acres of land close to the zoos present site. This expanded animal collection first opened to visitors in 1957. After the death of Harold Young the zoo was taken over by the Zoological Parks Organisation and moved just a litter further up the road to its present location in 1977.
Zoo Ticket Office
I was pleasantly surprised to find the ticket price for Chiang Mai Zoo was still just 100 Baht. This softened the blow on learning that it was 520 Baht to get into the aquarium! It caused me to reconsider whether I would bother to visit it at all in spite of it being one of my main reasons for coming to Chiang Mai. 520 Baht is a lot of money to people like me. Especially as I had forked out on bus fares and guesthouse accommodation as well. But then I daresay most people do not visit Chiang Mai specifically to visit zoos and aquariums.
I have visited Chiang Mai Zoo on three previous occasions. I have enjoyed each visit and for different reasons. I like the zoo but, like every zoo, it does have its faults.
Chiang Mai Zoos biggest fault is in that it pays far too much attention to some areas and neglects others, almost completely. What it does well it does very well and what it does bad it does very well as well.
Entering the zoo you are immediately attracted by the beautiful elephant fountain, the flowers. All very pretty. Go straight on or wander around and past the Greater Flamingos on the right? I went right.
Many of the sins in this area are hidden and almost forgiven by the lush vegetation. But if you see through this you note that much of the area needs a new broom. The glass is very dirty, fences are patchworked and a good raking is essential. The signs need cleaning and renewing. Plastic litter and bottles need picking up. Here I am only referring to the Macaws, Cockatoos and Flamingos at the entrance area. Even the paths are dangerous in places. This gives a bad impression to visitors who first arrive. Often the first impression people get is the one which sticks so it is important to get it right. Every zoo needs to pay special attention to the entrance area as it is, in effect their 'Shop Window'.
Whilst I am being completely honest I believe the Flamingoes need a whole new enclosure as what they have is unsuitable. This I thought was not a good start.
The Chiang Mai Zoo is big, hilly and spread out. There are regular buses running through park on a hop on hop off basis but to really see the place you need to walk. There is a wide range of species held and it is not my intention to list them. Such detail is probably available through the Zoological Park Association.
A lot of the zoo land is unused
On previous visits I had remarked on the hopelessly inadequate Gibbon enclosures. These have been replaced very attractive and functional Gibbon Islands. The old cages appear to have disappeared, at least I could not find them. Now they need to do something about the
depressing little pits that the other small primates are being held in. This is a bleak four walled existence for these unfortunate creatures. Enrichment was not in evidence though I noted a keeper giving a scatter feed. Some very nice animals there too. I liked the Assamese Macaques, although not rare it is a species I don't come across that often.
One of the Gibbon islands
I liked the Humboldt Penguin exhibit. They have an inside air conditioned enclosure and an outdoor one which they access by swimming underwater. I thought perhaps a little strategic vegetation removal could allow more sunlight in. I felt it would be beneficial. The signs and information provided were good. It stated that they breed the penguins and that they have 35 birds. I could only see eight in the exhibit. If they are being held elsewhere a sign to this effect would have helped. I thought the 'Donate for Animal Food' collection box was a bit worrying though. Reminded me a bit of Manila Zoo in that context.
The Wild Boar pen was busy and active
The Wild Boar enclosure contained over a dozen small animals of various sizes. It was busy and exciting. Though not an exhibit or rare or endangered animals it was none the less one of my favourites of the day.
Very close by was the Rhea enclosure. Seven White Rheas! What's the point? I know that within Asia that white is lucky and so I am more inclined to forgive here but elsewhere? It is once again I feel using animals as art as in the Aquarium here and in the commercially exploitative Bangkok Safari World.
A chained baby elephant may not go down too well with some visitors but I watched for a while. It was in excellent condition and did not appear to be stressed at all. Far from it, it appeared to be enjoying the attention it was getting. Certainly the visitors were getting a remendous thrill from touching it and standing next to it. Far better than the criminal practice of using Tigers or Apes which have been deliberately pulled from their mothers just for the purpose.
I am assuming that the mother of the elephant calf was one of the animals giving rides further up the zoo.
A No Smoking Zoo
Banning Smoking within a zoo is definitely the way forward. Apart from being more pleasant for the majority, it reduces litter and cuts down on fire risk.
An attractive Cassowary enclosure
The Cassowary enclosure was excellent. All overgrown and all the more interesting for it. Although I have seen a number of enclosures elsewhere with four or more birds together they are a rarity and singletons are the norm. It was nice therefore to see two birds together.
Elephant rides were available
The Small Clawed Otter enclosure was awful. It was dirty, smelled bad (not just ottery) and I appreciate there were porcupines close by but that was not it. No this animal needs a companion and a new enclosure.
Part of the Koala Complex
The zoo Kids Zone was nice. Colourful mixed with cute and educational in a subtle way. If it wasn't for the music.
The Koalas was excellent. Not only were the enclosures nice and well presented but it was an educational experience from start to finish. Not just from koala point of view but from things associated with them. I learned something... Well a few things really. If only I had been able to shut out the noise of over loud music from the nearby Kids Zone.
Excellent educational signage
Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium
The Chiang Mai Aquarium was a new innovation since my last visit and was one of the main reasons for my visit. It is an attractive building and well laid out. I have written about the aquarium in a separate article.
The Pandas are probably one of the main reasons that people visit Chiang Mai Zoo. Their Panda House is an extra charge but is definitely worth the money. You won't see anything jumping through hoops but you will be educated in an interesting way whilst you pass through a well designed and well constructed exhibit.
There were a number of 'Art' pieces around the zoo left over from an earlier exhibition. I thought that this Peacock was especially good. It was entirely constructed out of pieces of soft drink cans.
Over the years I have been visiting Chiang Mai Zoo I have seen a collection that is improving. Chiang Mai is a beautiful friendly city and different to anywhere else in the country. Somewhere to chill out and relax but somewhere where there is much to see and do as well.
Don't forget to put the zoo on your itiniary. You won't regret it.
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