Wildlife from India to Aotearoa
Preeti Maheshwari’s love of zoos began at a young age, and she has just added Auckland Zoo to her extensive and ever-growing list. Her latest family trip — under Alert Level 2 restrictions — gave her the opportunity to indulge in one of her favourite hobbies, snapping spectacular images of animals — from a safe distance.
I do not declare myself to be the greatest animal lover, but when it comes to visiting zoos, I’m always thrilled and excited for the wildlife encounter — from a safe distance.
What’s your first memory of a visit to a zoo? Perhaps a field trip with your school? For me, that is what first enthralled me.
In my mind, zoos are all about conservation and education — giving us the opportunity to view the wildlife we may never get to see in their own habitats.
To me, zoological parks are a perfect family day. Comprising of a collection of endangered and exotic animal species on display, zoos are spread out over several hectares of land, making you feel as though you are in a jungle with the diverse range of exotic animals.
In the early 90s when I visited the Birsa Munda Zoological Park in my small home town Ranchi in India, it was a memorable experience, even though the zoo lacked the glitz and glam factor. I traipsed the grounds to watch the animals — one after the other — until the sprawling land had been covered.
However, travelling to a zoological park today is an entirely different experience in ecological reality. From trekking through fertile jungle vegetation, walking over swing bridges to hiking windy plains — it is truly an unfathomable experience.
As a kid, a trip to the zoo was more of a fun day in the wild than it was to see the wonderful creatures. Whether it is the Birsa Munda Zoo in Ranchi, the Mysore Zoo and the Bennerghatta Zooligical Park, Bangalore, Karnataka in South India or the National Zoological Park (NZP) in the capital city Delhi — they all have the same lush, green environment with hundreds of animals to view.
As I grew up, I still did not become an animal lover but I enjoyed visiting zoos to take pictures and I was always happy to see animals a safe distance away. However, during one of my visits to NZP, a monkey jumped off a tree and snatched away my ice cream, consuming it without any thought of sharing.
From the white peacock, white tiger, bears, monkeys and various other animals to the colourful birds — every visit to the zoo uncovered something new.
Of all the zoos I have visited, Singapore zoo has been one of the best. It allows for an immersive experience with animals roaming in open habitats, similar to how they live in the wild.
The animals are given a natural habitat as much as possible with only essential barriers to create a safe distance between visitors and the animals. Jungle Breakfast is one of the most exciting and pleasant ways to interact with the animals. Token feeding is also allowed.
The exhaustive list of animals (around 3000) which live at the zoo makes it virtually impossible to cover the entire stretch on a single visit.
The fire show at the Night Safari is yet another worthwhile attraction. The River Safari gave an opportunity to have a close look to the aquatic life.
Lions, cheetahs, orangutans, Rothschild giraffes, white rhinoceros’, meerkats, Asian elephants, chimpanzees, Capuchin monkeys, Hamadryas baboons, Komodo dragons, reticulated pythons, Burmese pythons, Western diamondback rattlesnakes, King cobras and green iguanas, among others, are all present at the zoo. Pink flamingos and rainbow lorikeets are other beautiful birds which were a cynosure of all eyes. Being able to see animals from such close quarters was a real treat.
When I visited Sydney in 2015, Taronga Zoo was my priority. This was for two major reasons: I was desperate to see koala bears and it was my son’s first visit to a zoo. Unsurprisingly, the zoo had a panoramic view of the surroundings and a peek through to the Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.
The Ski Safari here was an incredible experience. It was one of the more interesting ways to arrive at the zoo and gave an overview of the grounds before landing.
The penguins and the seal show enthralled my son Devansh to the maximum. Though we missed feeding the animals, we found the place to be quite interactive and picturesque. The view of the city from Taronga zoo was simply unbeatable. From the koalas, wallabies, kangaroos and elephants to the giraffes and other animals — the zoo not only gave an opportunity to see wonderful creatures, but also gave us lot of information about each of them.
The Auckland Zoo is known to be one of the world’s most progressive zoos and is an ideal place for a great day of extreme family fun. This interesting zoo has over 175 species of animals. The zoo is divided into areas that separate the animals according to their types of species or their geographic place of origin, making it easy to explore the zoo systematically.
However, luck was not on our side as my visit to the Auckland Zoo happened during Alert Level 2 of the Covid-19 pandemic. A large chunk of the zoo remained closed to keep the public and animals safe from the virus.
On top of this, the rain played spoilsport, although we managed to enjoy watching the royal walk of the mighty king of the jungle — the lion. The larger animals moved around in their habitats. Herds of giraffes and zebras could be seen alongside white rhinoceros’ and emu, while the feathered friends such as Gouldian Finch and orange-fronted kakariki could be seen flying through their enclosures.
Overall, a day in the wild with hundreds of species to gaze at is an easy and exciting way to learn about the different animals.