After yesterday’s heavy rain, this morning dawned bright and clear; a perfect day to spend at the zoo. We went with Kevin and Derek, 16-year-old twin students of Richard’s who leave for boarding school in Maryland in early August. We met them at the school early this morning expecting to spend half an hour or more on the bus getting to the zoo. Instead, their father drove us there in his BMW. As we headed for the line up at the ticket booth, four zoo passes mysteriously appeared in Derek’s hand. Though he wouldn’t tell us where they came from, I suspect that they were also a gift from his father!
Covering 180 hectares, Dalian Forest Zoo is the largest city zoo in China and home to more than 150 species of animals. We’d heard that it was worth a visit but it far exceeded our expectations. We were amazed by the number of animals in the zoo; not just one or two of each kind, but in many cases, large groups. I feared that we might find them housed in cramped and dirty quarters like the polar bear exhibit that we saw at the Sun Asia Ocean World aquarium awhile ago but instead, most of them had plenty of room to roam in natural looking surroundings. Of course, the price we paid for that was having to walk long distances to see them all but it was well worth it. In spite of the fact that the animal habitats were large, they were set up in such a way that we were able to see most of the animals easily. I was especially impressed with the viewing platform at the giraffe exhibit. Though I’ve seen giraffes in many zoos over the years, I’ve never been able to look at one eye to eye before!
I was able to cross an important item off my unwritten China bucket list early in the day when I came face to face and hand to paw with a giant panda! Of course, there was plexiglass between us but it was an amazing moment! Those of you who know me well know that I love teddy bears and this was a real live one! If that was all I’d seen at the zoo today, I would have gone away happy! Thankfully, we visited the panda exhibit in the morning before the crowds got too thick. The first two pandas that we spotted were relaxing some distance away but the third one was closer. As I stopped to watch him, he walked right up to the glass in front of me, sat up on his haunches and put his paws on the glass! It was love at first sight and I told Richard and the boys that if they wanted to see the rest of the zoo, they might have to drag me away! They waited patiently while I watched my new friend unwrap and eat his Dragon Boat Festival zongzi. Unlike the ones we had for supper on Sunday night, his weren’t filled with glutinous rice though but something more palatable to pandas. We also watched him munch on some bamboo, a panda’s favourite food.
Eventually, I had to leave, of course. There were hundreds of other animals to see including many other kinds of bears. They were housed in the Fierce Beast Area of the zoo but the grizzly pictured below looked anything but fierce!
Springtime has obviously brought many new babies to the zoo. Some of them were on exhibit in the Little Animal Village and Nursery Center but most were with their mothers in the regular exhibits. We saw bear cubs, tiger cubs, and baby monkeys of many varieties just to name a few.
The zoo is divided into two sections. We spent most of the day touring the larger Safari Park on the west side of Bai Yun Mountain. After waiting in line for almost an hour in the middle of the afternoon, we took a cable car 1 200 metres over the mountain to the older Stable Breeding Park area. There was less to see there but the cable car ride was well worth it for the spectacular views of the coastline on the west side and the city on the east.
According to the brochure that guided our steps today, the operation philosophy of Dalian Forest Zoo is to produce happiness. It certainly did that for me today!