“The monkey vomited and then ate its own vomit!” my husband exclaimed, reminding me again why he doesn’t like to visit the zoo.
Any zoo. As long as there are animals in cages, he would not like it. His unfortunate experience at the Melaka Zoo years ago when he was still in kindergarten or some other school for very young people back in Malaysia still haunt him till this day. And he has always refused to visit a zoo due to this 'traumatic' episode that he was unfortunate enough to have witnessed, even after I begged him to take our children to any one of the other zoos in Malaysia, for the lack of any other obvious attractions that would be fun and educational for the children. “But that thing happened aeons ago!” I would say, “I’m sure it’s not that bad in this day and age.” But his answer has always been ‘no’.
Last weekend, however, he surprisingly relented, although I am sure his major reason was probably because we honestly, honestly didn’t know where else to bring our young children for a day out in London. The wonderfully hot weather was a kind of invisible hand that pushed many parents to take their children for an outing during the weekend and to us, the London Zoo sounded like the perfect place to go and surely children friendly. And so, my husband managed to control any reflexive display of repulsion that he might have and took us to the London Zoo but still took care to remind me one more time of his horrific experience in another zoo long ago while we were on our way there. “I’m sure it will be good.” I said, feeling perfectly optimistic (that invisible hand again) and trying to rub some of my optimism on him. After all, this is London Zoo and isn’t London popular for all its wonderful tourist attractions?
Surprisingly, I was proven wrong.
Well, it was not really surprising. Because the truth is, we have heard before from friends who have visited the zoo that it was crap but we still went for the reasons stated above. Too bad for us, the rumours about the zoo turned out to be true. Although it cost a fortune to get pass the zoo entrance and we were ‘forced’ to donate £1.50 per person on top of it (it was included in the quoted amount to be paid but my efficient husband quickly mentioned that he didn't want to make any donations and so we got through with £4.50 'saved' and appearing mean and stingy to that man at the gate), inside the zoo itself it didn’t look like it had enough budget to do much maintenance. Some of the buildings looked dilapidated and a lot of the animals e.g. the bears were not making an appearance for reasons unknown. The worst was the aquarium and the reptilian exhibit which looked very poorly maintained as some tanks were bereft of any animals and were left looking dirty and unkempt with overgrown plants and moss.
But to be fair, all was not horrible because at least, the animals that made an appearance looked pretty well and healthy albeit a little lazy (no vomiting monkeys, to my relief, or I would never hear the end of it! ) And there were some nice attractions like wonderful butterflies flying all around you in the butterfly house, the tiny monkeys swinging free from tree to tree, tigers behind glass windows so near that you feel you could almost ‘touch’ them and at the children’s zoo, children can go in to touch and feed farm animals like sheep, goats and pigs to their hearts’ content. More importantly, the zoo was kept quite clean although indeed, it was a little shabby in some spots. However, even with these compensations, I think the whole experience was not a very memorable one and we didn't think we'll ever go there again, even with the reasonable discount given to anyone who wants a repeat audience with the animal kingdom.
But I dunno. Come on, anyone out there..tell me which zoo did any one of you have been to that really awed you big time and made you fall in love with animals? I remember the first zoo that I ever visited was the Zoo in Ulu Kelang, Selangor. That was when I fell into a deep monsoon drain while eating an ice-cream (I was very, very young). No doubt the animals there didn't impress me much at the time for obviously my concentration was focused on that ice cream. I remember being lifted out of that drain just a little wet (for there was not much water in it, thank goodness!) and looking back in dismay at my ice-cream lying there in the drain. But that did not 'traumatise' me enough to discourage me from visiting more zoos.The next zoo that I went to was the Singapore Zoo and I was quite impressed with that. Then again, I was around 8 years old at the time, so I cannot really trust my memory of that place. I remember walking around with my sister and seeing a scorpion crawling free near a restaurant in that zoo - was that a memory of mine or a nightmare?
Well, I suppose the most important thing is the children had a good time that weekend, although I am pretty sure the visit to the zoo will not stick in their memory chips for any longer than 1 month. They probably would have forgotten already if I had not shown them the pics we took there. My conclusion is, I guess, zoos are not really all that interesting to children although they could be quite educational - especially when it comes to teaching kids to remember never to concentrate on any other things besides the main stuff. And to never wander away from their parents, perhaps. More than that, I honestly can't say.