Sunday, October 5, 2008
Skopje Zoo visit
Yesterday, against our better judgement, we took the kids to the zoo. I have heard such awful things about the conditions at the zoo, that I didn't think it was a good idea to visit. Chris, however, was curious and the girls were dying to go. He thought it might be a bit like the Doha Zoo, which was primitive, but not overly disappointing. So, since the weather was perfect for a nice stroll, we ventured out.
Everything I read and heard was true. The zoo is well-designed with winding paths, a small playground, and a lovely, large pond teeming with swans, ducks, and geese. Numerous, sometimes oddly placed benches invite onlookers to sit and watch the creatures. However, all of the physical structures/buildings are in an incredible state of disrepair i.e. holes in ceilings, broken windows, rusted metal grates, etc. There was a great deal of litter, even in some of the pens. Many of the enclosures are vacant, leaving you wondering about what terrible fate was suffered by the previous inhabitant. It was very disappointing.
I had expected to see animals in tiny cramped cages, and I did of course. As an American, I have been fortunate enough to visit some of the finest zoos in the US, where every effort is made to create an appropriate natural habitat for the animals in their care. Here, the animals are simply enclosed with no regard for their normal environmental needs. For example, a herd of deer were fenced into a large pen, quite rooomy actually, but completely void of grass or greenery. All stones! That is not natural. The hippos ,a.k.a. river pigs, had no water source/pond/puddle in their enclosure! The tigers, lions, panthers, and leopards were caged in tiny units in a building that is literally falling apart around them. Though there seems to be doors to the outside for each pen, they were padlocked, keeping them in a tiny space with just a wooden bench to lie on. There were also odd combinations of animals sharing enclosures, such as cute little deer-like creatures caged with swans...hmm? The two of them were fighting for attention behind a large sheet of broken glass, which really summed up the visit for me. That image is what I take away from this experience.
I should mention a couple of positives. It was extremely affordable to visit...only 4 dollars for the entire family. The animals did appear to be well-fed. The rabbits had carrots and apples, the lioness was tearing into something meaty, and the monkeys had banana peels littering their tiny cage. The girls enjoyed getting up close and personal with the camel and feeding him leaves. I did see at least one man doing some maintenance. The animals pens were not teeming with feces, except for the hippo, who gave us a demonstration....eeewwww! The zoo is fairly large, with lots of room for improvements and it has tremendous potential. A large new concrete wall surrounds the property, evidence that some improvements have been considered. Perhaps if they charged a bit more money, they could afford some repairs to the damaged structures. But then I suppose no one might come, and things might get worse.