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Nong Nooch Tropical Botanic Garden and Zoo
The Nong Nooch Tropical Garden is situated only a short drive by car, taxi or tour bus from Pattaya in Chonburi, Thailand. The 500 acre park is definitely worth a visit. As with all such similar tourist attractions it claims to be the largest and most beautiful in Asia. It may well be true. Although the gardens are the mainstay they are mingled in amongst the bizarre and the beautiful. There are abundant restaurants, rest areas and clean toilets. The elephant show and the cultural show are definitely something which should not be missed. If you tire whilst walking around the gardens you can even pause for a rejuvenating massage. You can make more than a day of it because it is possible to book and stay in a variety of on site accommodation. This starts at just under 1000 Baht. There are numerous daily visitors from Bangkok and further afield.
Entrance to Nong Nooch is dual priced. The 'Falang' price is 400 Baht and it is half that for Thais. If you add that to your taxi or tour fare plus food and drink and other activities then a visit to Nong Nooch is not a cheap day out. The price of the elephant and cultural show is included in your ticket though. If you compare this to the basic entry of 800 Baht to enter Siam Ocean World in Bangkok then Nong Nooch is a good deal.
I first visited Nong Nooch and the zoo three years ago. This visit was primarily to investigate the situation with the Orangutan (see the video below) and to re-visit the zoo. As my financial situation in November 2009 is extremely difficult I was not in a position to visit by tour or taxi.
From Central Pattaya I took two Sang Thaew to reach Sukhumvit road. Each of those cost me 10 Baht. Crossing over the footbridge to the far side I caught another Sang Thaew which was heading in the direction of Sattahip and alighted some twenty minutes later at the road leading to Nong Nooch. It had cost me 50 Baht up to there. Unusually I was able to get a Tuk Tuk from here to the Park itself for just 30 Baht. This was a tremendous saving on the alternatives.
The return after my visit was slightly more complicated due to the existence of Mah Fiah taxis who were requesting absolutely ridiculous prices back to Pattaya and even to the Sukhumvit Road. I walked halfway back before being offered a free lift by a nice Thai man and his son.
Obese Orangutan being maltreated
The actual animal collection at Nong Nooch is quite spread about. In the middle of the Park near the main car park one will find the elephant stable, freshwater aquarium, mini zoo, and butterfly garden. At the bottom of the Park near the Orchid Garden there is a Seafood Restaurant where you will find Marine Aquaria and some more freshwater tanks. Close by are the Arapaima which are available to feed.
The Freshwater Aquaria are in one of the main food courts and there are tanks both upstairs and downstairs. Each of the tanks is an identical 1 metre wide by 3 metres long. There are 27 tanks in all. Each tank is labelled in Thai and in English. The water in each tank is of exceptional quality. Every tank is vieweable from both front and back. Cage decoration is limited in most cases to a gravel bottom, and there were some which lacked even this. The 'theme' of the tanks was lots of fish of the same species or a few or a single large specimen(s).
With one exception (a dead goldfish) all specimens were in extremely good condition and the displays looked great. That said they were not to my taste. Fish may not seem the most intelligent of creatures but here, apart from interaction with tank companions (if you had one) the displays were mind numbingly boring. There was no stimulus whatsoever and, with all around viewing, no corner for retreat. Not for me and given the choice I believe the fish would prefer something different.
Sitting at a table in the rest area one can view the tanks on the one side and the elephant stable on the other. There were just 13 elephants there at the time of my visit including two calves. Some animals were out giving rides. All the elephants were in superb condition from top to toe.
As to the mini-zoo proper. This is broken up into a number of small areas.
Turtle and Tortoise Garden
The turtle and tortoise garden is quite neat and tidy and divided into several sanded pens or pens with pools. All the barriers are very low At both entrance and exit there is the opportunity to purchase greenery to feed the animals. There are no signs at all to say what the various species are here which is a pity because it is rather an impressive collection.
Cages for Palm Civets and Binturongs
The Palm Civets are held in a row of identical dark and dingy dungeons. Okay I will grant there is branching of sorts and even a place to hide but these cages look bloody awful. There are 11 Common Palm Civets here, a single three striped Palm Civet and two unfortunate Binturongs, all of them held singly. One wonders exactly what the purpose is. Safety was a matter of concern on the Palm Civet cages as only one cage actually had a clip to hold the bolt in place and on one the bolt was not even done up.
Ratites below Gibbons above in central area
The central area of the zoo has a number of small pens which house Cassowary, Emus and Rhea. Overhead are a couple of Gibbons with wires around their wastes which are in turn attached to a cable. This means they can travel the length of the cable and back and descend just far enough to take whatever junk that members of the public are offering them.
One then progresses through a small covered arch where there is a display (in Thai) which refers to Global warming. The Global Warming/Climate Change theme is carried over into the public toilets. Apart from the labels on the fish tanks this was the only hint at education.
Through the arch and up a coconut tree there was a large Pig-tail Macaque chained. The pulley system and bunches of green coconuts suggest that he put on a display at some point but I did not see this. Having watched these monkeys actually working on Koh Phagnan island I can vouch for the fact that it is as entertaining as it is educational.
Water Bird Aviary
Water Bird Aviary
Water Bird Aviary
The Water Bird Aviary is another unsupervised display and the occupants were being teased and chased by Western tourists when I was there. Some success because both Ibis and Painted Stork are breeding within the upper reaches the aviary.
Freestanding Bird Cages
There is a big high walk through aviary which, apart from peafowl, does not seem to contain anything but a few birds confined to tiny Ewok designed cages.
Outside was worse. Free standing completely inappropriate tiny aviaries where birds (nervous species) were unable to retreat as members of the public squeaked and banged on the cages.
Where was the supervision?
Slightly better were the larger Macaw cages. At least they could get away.
No Barrier, No Supervision
Another Tiger Poseurs Paradise
Inevititably there was the 'get your picture taken with a tiger' shot. I don't like it but at least here they only appear to have one tiger. Or perhaps they should have more or the unfortunate beast is never going to get a moments rest. Because of the rain photography sessions were halted and he was locked away in his cage. Posing was cheap at the price. 50 Baht, using your own camera. There was a big queue before the rain. Was the tiger drugged? I don't know but I suspect that he was. Of course it would be denied but I don't suppose there is any way to prove it without turning up and taking a blood or urine sample.
There was no barrier to the tigers holding pen so I went up and had a word with him. He was very friendly and overweight. I noted that his tongue was still protruding from his mouth as when he was being used for photographs.
There were two leopards back there as well. I don't know if they ever come out. The cage were less than useless for the long term maintenance of leopards. Like the abundance of Palm Civets I was left wondering just what was the point?
The butterflyless Butterfly Garden
Just inside the Butterfly Garden is a dropping to bits educational display which does not look like it has been given any attention in months.
Walking through the covered garden the foliage was green and lush. Many of the plants were flowering and the air was heavy with the scent of perfume.
I did not see a single solitary butterfly!
Like the Freshwater Aquaria the Marine set up had exceptional water quality. Here there was more tank decoration and I found the display more acceptable. The display of Giant Clams was especially memorable. I also like seeing that there more anenome fish than Nemo as here they were keeping Clown, Saddleback, Red Saddleback, Sebae and Pink Skunk, There were 17 tanks in all. Not as big as the freshwater but altogether more humane.
Where was the Orangutan?
I looked around for the Orangutan seen in the video above. I could not find it anywhere. I wondered where they could keep it because there did not seem to be anything Orangutan suitable around. I imagined it would be similar to that provided for the Palm Civets. A little research on the internet uncovered a photograph of another orangutan and this statement "I was sad to see the caged truck with them in though."
Nong Nooch is a beautiful place and with its shows and array of restaurants, walks and general all round ambience it is well worth the trip out to see. But the zoo? Sorry no, definitely not. There really is no reason for it. There is no education, no conservation, no research. It is all rather pointless. This is pure exploitation Taking something from nature and giving nothing back. Sadly that drops the Nong Nooch Zoo into the same hole as places like Sri Racha Tiger Zoo, The Tiger Temple and slum zoos like Phuket.
Some of the Weird and Wonderful
Nong Nooch does have more to offer. As I recollect I not only enjoyed and was impressed by the elephant and cultural show on my previous visit. Elephants appeared in both and appeared to be enjoying themselves. Far better than being chained to a tree in some jungle clearing for years.
There follows a few photographs of the weird and wonderful.
It is worth remembering when you visit Nong Nooch that it was here that Andrea Taylor was so tragically killed whilst watching an elephant show.
Trainee nurse gored to death as elephant runs amok at Thai circus
A British trainee nurse was killed and her father and sister seriously injured during a holiday visit to a circus after a bull elephant went berserk and charged into the audience.
Geoffrey Taylor had taken his daughters Helen, 23, and Andrea, 20, to visit the show in the Thai resort of Pattaya where they had front row seats. But during the performance the bull elephant hurled its trainer to the ground and began attacking the Taylor family with its tusks.
Video footage taken at the privately run animal park showed Mr Taylor, 53, trying to shield his daughters from the attack. His actions were in vain: Andrea died six hours later despite the efforts of surgeons to stem massive bleeding, while Helen also suffered internal injuries.
Mr Taylor, from Greater Manchester, suffered a fractured leg and was....
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