Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shanghai Trip Vol 2

My trip to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park definitely changed my outlook on zoos and whether or not I can really support them at all. I love animals and always want to visit the zoo no matter where I am. I had such an amazing experience at the Singapore zoo with it's cage free policy, happy looking animals and rain forest atmosphere that I forgot that zoos like the Shanghai Wild Animal Park exist.

When Kat proposed the idea of holding a baby tiger or panda while we were in Shanghai I thought, "That would be amazing!" I was picturing being in a beautiful, clean animal nursery, and getting to hold a tiger or panda baby under the supervision of caring veterinary experts. In reality, a scruffy looking man who looked like he just walked off the streets plopped a scared, sedated baby tiger in our hands and snapped a picture before I knew what happened. I walked away shaken and upset thinking, "Is that what this poor baby tigers life is like?" As you can see from the picture, I'm trying to smile through discomfort.

The Wild Life Park was dirty, the grounds unkempt and the animals looked miserable and many of them were in bare cement rooms with just a large window for people to look in on them. The worst part of it though was an area we walked through where there were just numerous miserable sedated animals on display: an elephant literally changed to the ground, only able to walk about two feet in any direction so that guests could take a picture sitting on it's trunk; a bear laying askew chained to a large stump; an emaciated tiger looking up at us with sad eyes; camels that could barely stand up, whose humps were pathetically slumped to one side or the other. All of these animals and more were chained up and either sedated or just depressed and miserable while locals yelled to us to come take a picture. I refused, having already felt awful enough having paid to get into this zoo and for the tiger picture. We left that area, feeling sick and depressed. Shortly after that, we left. There wasn't much to see there that wasn't disturbing and we had endured an hour long cab ride to get there. It certainly was nothing like what I was expecting and I felt extremely naive to have imagined a scenario so far from reality.

Next time, I will do much more research on a zoo before I visit, or I may just boycott zoos all together. I don't know. What I saw made me think, "Is there such a thing as a 'good zoo?'"

Kat and I headed to The Bund after the zoo and had an amazing afternoon and evening there. We had snacks and cocktails at Glamour Bar, a beautiful boutique lounge overlooking the Shanghai skyline.

We had much needed girl talk and I once again realized how blessed I am to have had Kat as my friend for so many years. When I think back to our family vacations at 15 years old, I can't believe I'm sitting across from that same goofy teenager, in China, over a decade later. We have learned so much from each other, and changed so much, but we continue to let the life lessons shape our friendship and ourselves. Who knew we would be sitting in Shanghai giggling, smiling, sharing our secrets and thoughts all these years later. For that evening alone, my trip to Shanghai was more than worth it.

We finished out the evening before I had to leave by strolling the waterfront of the Bund as the sunset, enjoying some Hagen-Daz green tea sorbet. We were often stopped by people wanting to take pictures with us, The Americans. I felt like I was back at work, sans the red dress and crazy Betty Boop head.

Saying goodbye to Kat was bittersweet. It's always so wonderful to get to see her and it couldn't have come at a better time for both of us. I think we felt a little stronger going back to tackle the challenges that lie ahead for us and also being grateful for all of the blessings we have. I miss her already.

1 comment:

  1. Go to places like Africa where you can see animals as they're supposed to live and you'll never want to step foot in another zoo again.

    But Shanghai is an amazing city. One of my favourites in the world.