Words By Kimberly Claire Reyes
Photos by Oriana Catapang Cuenca
According to the team behind Manila Zoo, their aim is to transition into a safe haven for animals.
Many individuals oppose to keeping animals in zoos these days. People would usually argue that zoos abuse animals by overworking them or that zoos are only there to exploit these indigenous animals without a care about their health and well-being. But, as Manila Zoo points out, many of these are just misconceptions by people and are not true for all zoos.
Recently, our team was given a private tour of Manila Zoo as a part of Ateneo De Manila University Graduate Students’ Awareness Campaign. This interactive tour mainly focused on showcasing the lives of various species living inside the zoo.
The tour was part of a special arrangement between the zoo and the campaign. As of today, there’s still no official announcement as to when Manila Zoo will be opened to the public.
During the tour, the team was given the chance to interact and feed Manila Zoo’s rescued elephant named Maali who was previously abandoned by her herd. Maali is a playful spirit who loves high-fiving humans and joking around with them. She is a truly memorable (and adorable!) creature.
The team was also introduced to other wildlife creatures, even given the chance to play with lions and tigers (disclaimer: they were only allowed to do this because they were accompanied by experienced, long-term volunteers) using a box containing cinnamon powder to give them a sensory experience. A volunteer would attach a string to the box and lift it up and down for the animal to pounce on. The zookeeper explained that this was a way to keep the animals engaged and fit! How cool is that?!
Jerry Young, a member of Zoo Crew Philippines, also talked about how people have commonly misinterpreted the treatment of zoos towards animals. He mentioned that zoos are made for the conservation and protection of species. Animals are kept in the zoo only because their natural habitats have already been destroyed.
“There are almost no wild habitats left to release the animals to,” Jerry explained.
Aside from that, he told us during the tour that his dream and goal is to see Manila Zoo come back to life. He hopes that the rehabilitation will restore the beauty Manila Zoo had possessed back in the day.
“It’s my wish and dream na sana bumalik ang dating Manila Zoo. Our vision is to see this zoo get back on its feet again.” Jerry ended his speech with a hopeful tone.
What Manila Zoo showed us is only the tip of what could be the zoo’s potential. Though there’s still a long way to go, with the continued efforts of the people passionately caring for the place and its animals, Manila Zoo could be great again, and once it re-opens, be able to provide the public an experience that will change the way they see and care for the world’s wildlife.