I’ve been to a couple of zoos. I know some people say it’s cruel to keep them in cages, which I agree with, but there are also those who argue in favour that the animals are well cared for and safe. Admittedly, there are zoos that are in terrible conditions and are literal hell holes, which should be shut down ASAP, but a well kept zoo can act as a sanctuary and a place to educate future generations on the importance of conservation.
One of these is the Taiping Zoo and Night Safari in Taiping, Perak, an hour’s drive from Ipoh. Located within the sprawling Taiping Lake Gardens over an area of 34 acres, it was established in 1961 and as such, is the oldest zoo in Malaysia.
Currently, the zoo houses over 1,300 animals from 180 species. During the day, it acts like a regular zoo, but at night, it turns into a night safari where visitors can stroll through the park and view exhibits lit up by soft, stimulated ‘moon’ light.
Entrance is RM17 for adults (inclusive of GST) and RM8.50 for children. Considering that Zoo Negara charges a whopping RM40++, I thought this was a reasonable price. It was a public holiday during our visit, and the place was crowded with tourists and families, mostly locals.
Note: The zoo is massive.
If you have older people or children in your group, I strongly suggest taking one of the passenger trams. The driver-cum-guide will talk visitors through the different exhibits during the tram ride.
The first thing visitors will notice upon entering the zoo grounds is how green it is. There are loads of trees which provide shade, and it seems like they’ve designed the zoo around the jungle-like landscape, to stimulate a natural habitat as much as possible. There are a few that featured concrete enclosures, but these are few and far between. The natural setting means that it is sometimes difficult to locate animals hiding behind the foliage.
My dad proved adept at this, often spotting the creatures before anyone of us could see them.
It was very warm and sunny. While the trees are shady, they aren’t planted all along the route, so be prepared with some sunscreen.
The chimpanzee enclosure had a group of five or six animals. They congregated in the shade in a circle, before moving to the trees and tall structures to swing about. Their limbs were immensely long in proportion to their slim bodies, and I was reminded of the film The Planet of the Apes (which by the way, I think they did a great job at capturing the mannerisms and movements of these magnificent great apes).
A member of the troupe picking bananas out of the stream.
The three orangutans were equally fascinating. The one on the bottom sat on the stream’s edge, using the leaf as a scoop to ladle water onto itself.
It even used the leaf as a face wipe!
The other two moved further back for some sexy time. The larger, I assume male orangutan beckoned for the smaller one to follow it, stopping and looking back to wait for the latter to catch up. It was a gesture that was extremely human. They then frolicked and tumbled in the grass in a heap.
It makes me sad that these so very human-like creatures are poached and mistreated. But then again, we human beings are capable of doing worse things to our own kind, let alone other species.
Another natural-looking enclosure, complete with small pond.
A civet cat resting in the shade. Its colouration and pattern blended so well with the forest floor, I couldn’t spot it right off the bat, even though it was sitting right under my nose.
Large crocodiles measuring at least 2 meters long
A lot of walking. What I think the zoo could benefit from would be more seats for people to rest on along the way.
The lion enclosure, which had a moat surrounding it. Too small for camera to make out but there were two lionesses and a lion within the cave-like structure.
More deers resting in the shade.
An aviary, filled with stork-like birds and huge fruit bats. No fences here aside from the net surrounding the dome, but I doubt the animals would come very close to visitors.
The African savannah area which housed two giraffes and zebras.
Black panther. Wakanda forever.
You can still see the spotted pattern in spite of its melanin-rich coating, which is what gives the animal its black sheen.
A rare Asian gold cat. Very beautiful, elegant creature, from its sleek coat to the feline way it moves. Sadly, the species, native to Southeast Asia, is threatened by rapid development and deforestation in many parts of the region.
Lonely black swan in the pond.
Several rhinos chillin’
If there is one exhibit that I feel could see improvements, it’d be the Asian elephant exhibit. There were no trees in the enclosure, and the poor creatures were forced to stand under the baking hot sun. One of the elephants went into the pond and submerged itself in a bid to escape the heat. I saw that there were several dead tree stumps in the compound, and wondered if perhaps the elephants had stripped the plant down to its bark, leaving the place bare. Still, management should look at a way to provide them with at least some form of shade.
All in all, we spent close to four hours exploring the place.
I was impressed by how well maintained the zoo is, as most animals looked well fed and healthy. The zoo’s overall design mimics a natural setting as much as possible, which I think is better than having the animals in concrete enclosures. If you’re looking for an educational place to take the family and little ones while in Taiping, I suggest paying this a visit.
TAIPING ZOO & NIGHT SAFARI
Jalan Taman Tasik Taiping, Taman Tasik Taiping, 34000 Taiping, Perak
Operating hours: 8AM – 11PM (daily)
Tickets: Adults (RM17), Children (RM8.50)