We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo
How about you, you, you?
You can come too, too, too
We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo.
“Going to the Zoo” Peter, Paul & Mary
November 14th is Saitama Prefecture Citizens Day, making it a day off for me. (Well, a day when there are no classes, but I have to take a paid holiday if I don’t want to go to work…)
The weather was fine and I decided to take the kids to Ueno Zoo. At only ￥600 for me and no admission fee for the kids, it was a relatively cheap day out.
I have mixed feelings about zoos. I would rather see animals in their natural environments, but that just isn’t possible. Modern zoos are improving their enclosures and keeping methods, and often play an important part of animal research and conservation. Would we know, or care, about the conservation status of pandas if we couldn’t see them in zoos?
Ueno houses the only pandas in Tokyo (I believe they are on lease from China), and that keeps visitors coming. Luckily there was little in the way of queues that day, despite the thousands of people there. I had ideas other than pandas, however…
…but no good photos to show for it. (The window style enclosures affect our camera’s ability to focus, plus I would be in real trouble if there were photos of animals and not kids)
I almost had my first encounter with a Japanese badger. I say almost because the critter was asleep in its shelter, only a patch of fur being visible. Also disappointing was the lack of marten and weasel displays. We were, however, able to see most of the other important Japanese mammals – the Hokkaido brown bear was particularly impressive, and was the favourite of a certain little boy.
We also had our first view of the masked palm civet, albeit from a distance – it was up a tree! Enclosures which display the animal in a close reproduction of its natural environment are most welcome. Some of the Japanese bird enclosures were also excellent, as was the squirrel cage. I just wish I could say the same for the larger birds of prey. (Admittedly, each one would need an enclosure roughly the size of the entire zoo to fully appreciate them, but they seemed so cramped)
The zoo had a special display (actually, a reboot of one they did a few years ago) on defences used by reptiles and amphibians. This one actually has some English explanations, but the zoo could do with a better proof-reader – “…these animals defense themselves…”
My special interest is local wildlife, so it was refreshing to see more Japanese reptiles and amphibians on display. A certain little boy was excited to see fire bellied newts just like the pair he has at home, while my interest was in the giant salamander and Japanese keelback snake.
The day was a little too short – I would have liked to arrive earlier, seen some of the other parts of Ueno Park, and stayed at the zoo longer. Still, given that my daughter said she would like to go again with her friends, that day may not be so far off.