Zibo with a population of 4.5 million people, is a small to medium-sized Chinese city. We were excited to find out that there was a zoo, and took a 20 minute taxi ride outside of the city to visit. I checked with the hotel to make sure I would be able to find] a taxi to take me back, because I have been stranded outside the city before, but I was assured that I would be able to find one. There were mixed reviews about this zoo, and not very many of them online. After paying the 20 rmb entry free, the boys picked to go into the aviary first. This bird exhibit was different than any other I have visited, in that there were not clear exhibit areas and walking areas. There were paths, but the birds were strutting all over them! We saw a turkey and several male peacocks doing their manly dances. In the stream section of the exhibit, geese, ducks, and black swans swam around. It was really neat to see the birds so up close, but I kept having flashbacks to getting attacked by a bird of prey in the Haifa Zoo. I was relieved when we left without any incidents.
My kids, especially Owen my animal lover, love zoos. I think that well maintained and managed zoos and aquariums serve a great purpose by focusing on patron education and conservation of habitats and endangered species. But in general, I feel sorry for the animals in zoos. I try to rationalize away my sadness by saying that they will most likely live a longer and easier life than in the wild, but I still get sad. On a sadness scale of 1= the animals seem to be happy in large enclosures and have plenty of food and things to do! and 10= the animals seem incredibly sad because this is a terrible place to keep them, I would rate the Zibo zoo an 8 on the sadness scale. Many of the enclosures were just brick pavers and cement- no dirt or grass! Even the pens that were larger had trash in them and it seemed like the animals were hungry. I didn’t even take pictures in the little aquarium area because I was so sad- there were seals in there swimming in a little pool 3 feet deep. They could even do tricks, but I wish they had a bigger, deeper cage. Some parts of the zoo seemed neglected and post-apocalyptic, like something had happened to all the zoo keepers and the animals were just left to fend for themselves. Chinese people like to feed zoo animals all sorts of snack foods, and so the bears were very good at begging for snacks and catching them in their mouths! I wonder what chips and rice crackers do to the bear’s digestive system…
It seemed to be mating day at the zoo. The peacocks were dueling, and the bears and lions were making babies too. Landon, the ever-curious four-year=old, asked what they were doing. I think I said they were wrestling and making baby bears and lions, and left it at that. Fortunately, he was distracted by the massive pacing tiger. The enclosure had a moat around it, and a pedestrian bridge with glass to that we could essentially walk right next to the tiger. He was very big and intimidating, but the boys stood there watching him for quite awhile.
The Zibo zoo was somewhat maze-like with a few central exhibits and then many exhibits hidden around the outskirts. There were so few visitors and so many areas either shut down or under construction that at times I wondered if we were wandering off into areas where we should not have been. After going into the really, terribly sad “aquarium” with dirty tanks and a shallow pool for the seals, Landon saw the carnival rides. There were so many rides, but most of them were covered with tarps and did not look open for business. Many of them looked broken. Landon really wanted to go on a ride, so together, we chose bumper cars. There was one lady manning most of the rides, so she came over when we showed interest in the cars. She had Owen and I sit in the passenger seat of the car with Landon, and she hopped in a car herself so Landon would have someone to bump into. She was ruthless, but we had so much fun driving around. I think it was Landon’s first experience with bumper cars. He loved it!
After bumper cars, and separated from the rest of the zoo by all of the amusement park rides, we found zebras, horses and ostriches. The zebra was in an enclosure with a floor of brick pavers, and seemed to be so skittish that they had to install tires around the pen at eye level so the zebra wouldn’t charge visitors or run into the fence too hard. That’s where we saw the poop. At first, we thought that perhaps it was the poop of an escaped zoo animal, but then we realized that with a wad of toilet paper on top, it was most likely human. It made me feel slightly better that there wasn’t an escapee, but I will say we left that section right away.
The other outer exhibits included sad little monkey cages, a weird domestic animal area with rabbits, guinea pigs, cute dogs, and a random raccoon! Going through the whole zoo took only a few hours, and when we were done, it was clear to me that no taxis were going to drive by the zoo, as it was down a smaller country road outside of Zibo. When I communicated with the security guard that I needed a taxi, he motioned for us to walk to the main road (a highway with fast cars) and hail a taxi there. In the U.S., this would never work, but we managed to flag down not one but two taxis within the first few minutes. They talked among themselves and figured out which one wanted to drive to Zibo. We were back to Zibo in a short 20 minutes!
Zibo Zoo was a small, relatively sad zoo. Westerners and animal lovers will find it alarming, but it was a good diversion for my boys for a few hours. I would not necessarily recommend it for visitors, but for residents of Zibo it is a fine half-day activity.