Manila Zoo in the Philippines

Manila Zoo

Manila is a huge city with a population numbering somewhere in the region of 20 Million people. Nearly all of these are familiar with Manila Zoo which, as reputedly the oldest* zoo in Asia, opened its doors in 1959 on a 5 hectare site. Most Manilans will have visited at least once in their life.

*(It was not the first zoo in Manila. The 'Monkey Zoo' was in operation in the 1920s but this has long since closed.)

Entrance to Manila Zoo

Cheap at the Price

But still way outside of what many Manilan families can afford.
But still way outside of what many Manilan families can afford.

Sadly the Manila Zoo is not a good zoo. It scrapes by doing the very minimum to keep its critics quiet and seems to have an overinflated opinion of its own expertise. This was amply demonstrated by its refusal to send any staff to the Philippine Keeper Training Workshops.

This sort of 'know it all' attitude is very old fashioned and is detrimental to the well being of the animals and progress of the collection. All too sadly such ways of thinking are not unique to Manila.

Dyed Chicks and Birds for sale outside the Zoo Gates

Zoo Map

Again, as a major city zoo one would expect them to be a member of SEAZA and cooperating with other zoos in Asia but there is no evidence to support this.

Religious Shrine in Zoo

Luzon Cloud Rat

Nasty horrible little cage housing a single animal
Nasty horrible little cage housing a single animal

I would not go quite as far as to say that the zoo should be closed because I don't believe it should. It is a popular collection with a relatively cheap entrance charge. Instead of closure it should be making steps to improve and fulfil the role of the modern zoo. It needs to re-invent itself. At the moment it is not doing that.

The Infamous Orangutan Cage

One of many 'Wishing' ponds

Far from moving forward the Manila Zoo appears to be moving backwards. On my latest visit during March 2009 the main exhibit was a man. A very BIG man. Thie biggest man I have ever seen. In the Philippines where a large percentage of the population hovers around 5' he was truly Gigantic. But this is not Montezuma's Zoo at the time of the Spanish Conquest of South America...this is modern day Philippines!

I have visited Manila Zoo several times over the past few years looking in vain for some type of progress. My first visit followed a typhoon which had blown in the week before. The place was devastated with many cages and enclosures damaged and several very large trees blown over.

The Red Eared Terrapins are popular

Reptile House

Next visit they were actually spending a bit of money and it looked like the new enclosures might actually be quite nice.

One of my later visits followed on from an article in one of the local Manila newspapers. "Manila zoo orders therapy for stressed-out animals" They were talking of the importance of enrichment. True enough, when I went to the zoo there were a few little bits of rope hanging up that were not their previously.

This latest visit showed that all evidence of previous 'enrichment' had gone. It was all just a story to get publicity or perhaps, just perhaps someone had read an article. This visit there was no supervision of visitors at all and wiley photographers were sneaking around offering the chance to take your photo with anything for a fee. Manila following the 'lead' of Cairo Zoo? Today the most attention being given to enclosures appears to be putting up little signs on bits of water saying "wishing croc" or "wishing pond".

Manila zoo has nothing to be proud of. There are a couple of halfway decent aviaries but there are very many extremely bad ones. Manila Zoo has much to be ashamed of and has one of the worst Orangutan enclosures in Asia. I say 'one of' because there are worse to be found in Indonesia...including the off show exhibits in Ranugan Zoo.

Elephant Enclosure

Presently (March 2009) the zoo is getting flak from PETA and other animal rights groups which have issued the statement:

"Animals belong with their families and communities in the wild, where they can run free, roam across long distances, and live as nature intended," the petition read. "Animals in zoos are confined to tiny enclosures, where they suffer from acute boredom and stress."

Whereas I do believe the zoo is in urgent need of change I believe the statement is dripping with sentimentality and lack of real understanding of animals. I cannot abide such ignorant and insane statements and others such as:

"The petition reiterated that animals are always better off when left in the wild instead of being confined to zoos."

Elephant at Manila Zoo

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Comments 19 comments

looey3 7 years ago

Have to agree with you Peter. An accurate account of the pathetic conditions in Manila. Don't think I'll be going back there to visit. Too depressing. Feel sorry for the poor trapped animals.


franciaonline profile image

franciaonline 7 years ago from Philippines

Hi Peter,

I agree with your observations. We can only hope that some things will change soon but with a government whose priority is more to stay in power than to look after the common good, it will take a long time for us here in the Philippines to have a good zoo.

I love reading your hubs. I'm joining your fans club!


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thank you Franciaonline. It will be interesting to see if the Philippines has Manny as leader one day.


alan littlehales 6 years ago

I agree with the comments on the zoo when I visited in 2007 it was in poor shape (the recent typhoon haden't helped) I was interested in the elephant. She was in good condition her feet looked ok from a distance and as seems to be the norms with eles in home range countries her skin looked good. She had a long repetative walk which took in the small house within the enclosure. I watched her for some time and she only stopped this pacing to take a big swing at a member of staff that who worryingly didn't notice (he will one day)Saddest of all was the Orang and your pic of the cage brought back a sad memory. I gave the zoo the benefit of the doubt as it had been badly affected by the storm but my guess is it doesn't look so different today


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

Pity I missed you Alan we must have been there within a few days or weeks of each other in 2007. I have visited several times since. The new side of the zoo really was a waste of effort...filling it with horses.


dyesebel10 profile image

dyesebel10 6 years ago from USA

I have last visited this with my family 20 years ago. So it hasn't changed for the better. Franciaonline is right. Pretty sure it's not in the government's list of priorities. Let's hope the next administration (2010) will look into this.. thanks for sharing your hub.. I am flattered that you feature Philippine stuff in your hubs.


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thanks dyesebel10 - I love the Philippines and have travelled a lot there. Mainly visiting zoos which are my main interest...but I love food too. So thanks again.


Ryan 6 years ago

This is horrible..


jme 6 years ago

Hi Peter,

I just visited the Manila Zoo last Saturday and there were some improvements.. especially for the deers and the zebra, there are a lot of grass.. the orangutang cage is still there but the orangutang is not there anymore (last time i saw it was years ago, i think) and inside is a big sleeping tiger.. try going to the kinderzoo(i think) inside Manila Zoo.. there, you can pet the animals.. carry a monkey (that wears a diaper), sit on a big turtle, hug or ride an ostrich, and pat a crocodile/aligator (can't remember which is which).. :)


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

jme - The Orangutan died about 4 months ago. I think it unfortunate that they have now put a tiger into a cage which is only suitable as an exhibit in a 'what not to do museum'.

I have seen the kinderzoo on my visits but only viewed from the outside. I must say though that I disapprove of monkey carrying, sitting on tortoises, patting crocodiles and riding on ostriches so doubt it will make me feel better about Manila Zoo. I will try and visit again soon.


rose ann salcedo 6 years ago

irrespnsible management !

by rose ann c. salcedo

(metro manila , phils.)

me and my family have been here at the manila zoo just this may 20, 2010. we have found it so miserable.a philippine eagle lying down dead at the pathway! a palawan bear cat suddenly dropped dead at his cage in front of my 7 yrs.old nephew! animals here are so pitty! the tigers seems malnutritioned! their hip bones are already been embosing! this is not a free leisure park! what are you doing?!!! the big snakes or even the monkeys are flat tummy! aren't you afraid that if they got the chance to get out surely they will going to eat the care takers first in their hunger!!! if you can not feed them well you might as well bring them back to where they really belonged!!! just send them back to their natural home!

remember GENESIS 1:28 ?!!! God gave the responsibility of all that is on earth to man!aren't you aware that you will be accountable to God for mistreating His animals?!!!

i got photo shots and videos of this poor animals esp. the how the palawan bear cat died!!! if you need them for proof then i will be willing to send it to you or show it publicly!!!

this are only animals yes! but because of your negligence in taking care of them you are much worst than these animals! animals have no souls and spirit but man has!!!but these animals like man have life also!!! they breath,they thirst,they go hungry!!!

set them free to where they are from that they may be able to feed themselves!!! that's much better than your management do!!!


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thank you rose ann salcedo for your comments.


legendindia 6 years ago

Hi peter.I appreciate your hub. i like zoo and animals. I like to see animals and collect information.


Maria Cecilia profile image

Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

Manila zoo is a part of my childhood, and I am sad the giraffe no longer exist there...not only the government but the people who visit... some of them feed the monkeys even if it is forbidden...I don't approved of throwing coins to crocodile. Just visited the zoo last October, my first time after 30 years maybe..


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thanks Maria - It is sad that this collection is so stubborn not to keep up with the times.


agmalenayen18 5 years ago

Is it okay to bring food inside manila zoo? How can i prove that I manila resident. Thanks


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

agmalenayen18 - I am unsure of the answer to both those questions. Policies change. You best contact the zoo directly.


cherry14 4 years ago

what is the mission and vision of manila zoo?

thanks we need it for our marketing plan


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 4 years ago from South East Asia Author

cherry14 - The answers to your questions would cost you. I am a zoo consultant...it is in part how I earn my living.

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