I’d been pretty keen to head to the Yogyakarta Kebun Binatang (zoo) since we arrived, if for nothing else for something to do. Part of me really loves the zoo. Much more then say, the circus. Clowns are scary. Anyway, Jas was less keen based on a previous excursion nearly a decade ago when she witnessed all of the animals being fed chicken. Including the kangaroos and other herbivores. I hoped things had improved and as Gembira Loka translates to happy world – you have to take a chance! They had, though as you’d expect in Indonesia – not everything is perfect.
One thing everyone has to keep in mind regarding animals in Indonesia is that animals, in any culture, are generally housed and treated worse than the living standards of the humans within that culture. Makes sense really – you look after you like and kin first. So to all those newly vegan friends of mine that only just realised animals aren’t all slaughtered humanely – things aren’t always same as they are in Australia. Shock, I know. To be fair to Gembira Loka they have made honest attempts to improve enclosure sizes and animal care (i.e. not just chicken for lunch!) and the signs at least discourage things being thrown at the animals.
There are still things that you probably wouldn’t see, do or be socially acceptable in a traditional “Western” zoo. The opportunity to ride the Gajah (elephants) for instance were a bit of a shock. I resisted the urge – but I can understand people that cannot. The interesting inclusion of fish foot spa treatments between the ikan (fish) and buaya (crocodile) displays. Throwing food to orangutans (incidentally, orangutan is from two Indonesian words – orang and hutan, basically translating to people from the forest) is probably also inappropriate, but to be fair, it was largely bananas and the orangutans seemed appreciative. Animals here are generally treated like entertainment or for work purposes. You get a laugh from them, use them to drag something heavy (like a cart full of tourists) or eat them. Sometimes in that order. Not a criticism, just a cultural difference.
Otherwise, it was a nice day out at the Kebun Binatang with the family. Jack loved the animals. People loved Jack. People found the display of the “big white bule” riveting and wanted lots of photos with me. Occasionally just photos of me. As in walking past me pretending not to take photos on their BlackBerry, taking one, then running off laughing. Budhe, Is and Jas enjoyed spending some time together wandering around, humouring me and Jack, avidly avoiding the snake displays and finding the birds largely boring (and lets face it – they are).
Highlights were definitely the lazy lions and tigers, the freakishly humanlike orangutans and chimpanzees peeling bananas and drinking water from water bottles, the huge tortoise chowing down on lunch, Jack’s face lighting up with wonderment and awe when he was able to pet the kura-kura (turtle) in the petting pool, Jack’s face when he was close to any animal, and family time in general. So well done Gembira Loka – perfect you are not, but at least you are trying.