Jerusalem Biblical Zoo…

After four years of being in Israel, Jerusalem is one city which I have not explored well. So I decided to travel Jerusalem whenever I got a chance. In general I and my wife are animal lovers, who always we wanted to visit biblical zoo at Jerusalem. We have visited twice, the same zoo and here I am writing both the experiences.

First visitOn a pleasant day, cool and fresh morning, we took the public transport from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. We took the trail from the central station to Mount Herzl and then travelled in the unique egged mini bus (looks like a zoo van), an awesome experience. Surprisingly, we got 50% discount on the entrance ticket as it was raining the day before our visit. The park was so deserted, just two to three families with their kids running around. We chose the longest path (3 hours walk according to the zoo map), and that was an amazing choice I would say. We were fist welcomed by a couple of swans, roaming around happily with fewer disturbances. We heard that the park used to be very crowded during normal holidays but on that day very few people around, which really helped us to see animals closely for a longer time and feel their behaviors. Next was the spider monkeys that we saw them from the wooden bridge few meters away from the entrance. They were playing so much, jumping and chasing other fellow mates. One thing that amazed us was the pattern how they use their tail for climbing ropes, the curl on the tail was unique. Hereon I will share a few of our unique feelings during our visit to the zoo, to give our readers about the pros and cons of visiting animals in zoo.

The zoo is well maintained, the workers are polite to us as well as to the animals, it’s very clean both outside and inside the animal enclosures, which really amused me. I never had such a close exposure to any of the wild animals before. All aviarys (Marsh aviary, Lory, Eagle, Owl aviary, raptor, tropical) were just amazing. In marsh aviary, we saw all the birds so close to us, they were just sitting, walking and flying near and above you. Ferruginous duck chased us out; it does not like us coming inside his territory, so much of showcasing of its supremacy over us, which I loved. This is one piece of an example for the preservation of natural spirit in the animals and birds, that can be attributed to the zoo authorities. Lory aviary is another place where you can feed the birds (only place which to my knowledge, the zoo gives you the permission to feed animals, food can be bought from the counter before the aviary). Eagle and owl aviary was just amazing. The eagles were very close to you; even I was afraid, wondering how such huge, majestic birds of prey can be so close to us. All the birds were so happy on this pleasant day, loving the weather and the fresh air. Tropical aviary is a prestigious cap to the zoo. It is so moist inside, and it is maintained by spraying a mist of water, every two minutes or so to mimic the rainforest atmosphere. We were welcomed by the western crowned pigeon at the entrance, displaying its beauty just few inches besides us.  Red-handed tamarin, monkeys are so tiny looking and I have never seen them before, which is really a unique addition to the zoo.

The zoo also has the big cats (like lions, Sumatran tigers, leopards and cheetahs), who were all busy doing their job, least concerned about the visitors. It is well separated and the animals were segregated into different yards like African savannah, South American Yard, Australian yard,  etc… having almost all the important regional animals. In Australian zoo we were so close to the kangaroos and could interact with them physically, which I had never experienced before. It’s nice to visit the animals from various parts of the world at one place. Several sign boards were available with the history of the animal and the channel how it came to zoo are interesting to read. We were roaming in the whole park for almost 5 hours, just relaxing, enjoying and we could feel the spaciousness in the zoo. Unlike most other zoos in the world, the biblical zoo at Jerusalem has a character in it, which is highly recommended to any one visiting Jerusalem, only on a pleasant day and the reason for this statement is just following.

Second visit –With so much of good memories from our first visit we planned our second visit during Passover holiday (people who read about Israel will know about it). It was a sunny day and similar to our previous visit, we came to the park by mid day. This time there was no discounts..!. For the first time we were amazed by the crowd. Almost 200 to 300 adults accompanied by 2 or 3 times of children of the same number of adults. OMG..! So many people, no welcomes from any of the animals, all the aviary’s are dry. Birds were finding space to hide, no display of beauty, majesty and character. Animals, inclusive of all yards, kangaroo’s, tigers, elephants, leopards, cimpz’s etc etc etc… were looking dull. The energy was missing in most of the animals. We finally ended up our stroll in 2 hours only, (the 3 hours walk was finished), though we did not miss to visit any of the animals.

I would like to discuss a few things as an animal lover. It might be the day, climate, environment or humidity in air be the reason for us not enjoying our second visit, but the most important reason I realized was none other than we humans. For the enjoyment of our children we spoil the joy of an animal. The children were shouting, knocking the glass doors of the animals to get attention. The macaws, lorikeet’s, parrots do not enjoy when someone is knocking to gain their attention. Be it a child or an adult or a senior citizen, the personal space for the animals has not to be compromised. The monkeys are the poor creatures I would say, most children were just banging the glass doors. Altogether we both (me and my wife) had a feel that are we doing the right thing? In name of conservation we make money out of the animals without their permission, by cutting out the real joy of those poor creatures and gain enjoyment out of it? Is it correct?1

About the Author
Sridharan Jagadeesan is an Indian student doing his PhD at Volcani Institute. He is here for more than four years and still loves the country.