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An Honest Report on Bali Zoo
Bali zoo http://bali-zoo.com is yet another Bali animal collection which prices its gate in US dollars. Here it was $20 or 225,000 Indonesian Rupiah. This is no small amount and I half expected to be ripped off.
I already knew a little of Bali Zoo having followed links in ZooNews Digest and knew of its recent association with Peel Zoo in Australia.
On their website they claim to be the first and only zoo in Bali. Well they may well have been the first but they are certainly not the only because there is the Bali Bird Park and the Bali Safari and Marine Park amongst others. I suppose it is the website designers perception of what is a zoo.
Just inside the entrance was the first of several clear perspex donation collection boxes. This had a sign on it saying that it was a private zoo employing 74 local people and was having a hard time since the Bali bombing. Please donate.
Now I'm sorry but I have just paid $20 to get in! Whether the zoo is private, commercial, national or blessed by Bindi Irwin I don't expect to be asked for donations to something I have just paid to see. An accountable charity perhaps but otherwise no....this is not a good idea. I can appreciate their problems but either your entrance fee goes up to get the cash or it comes down to get more visitors. I am sure that the price turns people off. I saw people in heated discussion when I left. They were unsure as to whether to pay to go in.
Offerings to Spirits on each and every cage
The zoo itself (which also operates as a night zoo) was a big surprise. Singapore has always been my most 'beautiful' zoo but now Bali Zoo is a very close second. I am not saying that it was all as spik and span as Singapore because Bali has some really atrocious nasty muddy enclosures (there had been recent heavy rain). No I am really referring to the ambience...the paths, the lush vegetation. This was enhanced by no less than 8 species of iridescent butterflies, 4 species of lizard and several attractive birds which were flitting or scurrying their way round the grounds.
Progress through the collection is by way of a one way path which allows enclosures, with strategic planting, to make maximum use of the space available. The enclosures themselves are interesting. There is nothing modern even though some are quite recently built. I would describe the style as 'best of the zoo fifties'. Mind you there is a mingling of the worst of the 1880's too. Some of the cages really are just too small....even for a chicken...even if it is temporary. One should not be allowed 360° access. It is stressful even, or especially to a chicken.
A couple of the tiny bird cages
In spite of my criticisms there is a very strong feeling that the people who work here genuinely care. I was particularily touched that offerings had been made to the spirits of each and every cage in the collection...with each cage being looked on as a home. These offerings of course being made twice every day. All the staff I met were very nice, very friendly, almost insistent that I hold an Iguana or Fruit Bat. The staff were multi tasking too which I believe is so important in a small zoo. The girl who did the guest massage (yes really) also made the trays for the spirit offerings.
Whereas I don't like the touchy feely encounters I am in favour of supervised controlled (and paid for) feeding sessions to carnivores and similar. It is enriching because it is broken down to uncertain times through the day....as long as they get a bone to gnaw on later.
Path through the grounds
There were a surprisingly large number of species in the zoo. I didn't count them all and sadly there were a few singletons amongst them. These included a magnificent male Sumatran Orangutan called 'Jackie'.
Other noteworthy animals included Komodo Dragon, Javan Leopard (including a black one), Agile Gibbon, Maroon Leaf Monkey, Ebony Leaf Monkey, Bawean Deer, Timor Deer, Lesser Bird of Paradise, Dwarf and Single and Double Wattled Cassowary, Sun Bear. There were Lions and Tigers (sadly including the inevitable white one), a nice collection of Hornbills, Nilgai, a single Pygmy Hippo and a good range of other species.
There was, as expected animal shows. Dress them up, give them a name 'encounters', 'experiences' or whatever. They are all the same. I don't like them (no, I hate them) unless they are done well. Here they were educational. Yes, they were factual and interesting but but. Why does everyone in the audience have to get to hold a Salt Water Croc or pat a lion cub or whatever. It is as unnecessary as it is stressful to the animals concerned. I am all for limited contact but no, this was too much. I am almost 100% sure that if the staff here were showed how to do a proper animal educational show then they would leap through hoops of fire to learn.
I only watched one of these 'shows' and even then did not stick it out to the end. There was another taking place in the restaurant area later on. I don't know what species were involved there.
Sticking with the Education side the commentaries were in English and Bahasa Indonesian. This was the same for the signage throughout the collection. The signs were just long enough to read comfortably without being boring. I would have preferred something a little more colourful and attention grabbing. I was especially pleased that the locals, through the local language, are catered for I know how much it pleases my wives when they can read a sign in Thai or Tagalog.
There was evidence of enrichment here though I gauged it more on the 'interesting cage fixture' than enrichment per se. I reckon that the implementation of a genuine enrichment programme would be beneficial to the animals, fun for the keepers and of interest to the visitors.
The food on offer looked exceedingly good. Very fresh.
What about conservation? To be honest I don't know. There is nothing on their website or in their brochure to suggest that they are a member of SEAZA or WAZA or any such body. The Bali Zoo really needs to be to be taken seriously and I am afraid that a close association with Peel Zoo (who few have heard about, however noble) is just not going to cut the ice. Bali Zoo needs to sit up and get noticed. Presently it looks better and has more to offer in zoological terms than does Bali Safari and Marine Park. Okay they are offering a similar package but it is not the same and I see no reason why the two cannot exist alongside and happily cooperate. They should and must if SEAZA itself is to be taken seriously.
So, is Bali Zoo worth a visit? Yes, most definitely. It is just the sort of zoo I would not mind working at if I could get over my hang up over animal shows. The thing is I don't want to get over my hang up, I think it is hanging correctly.
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