August 2007


Old School Zoo

Yerevan ZooMy last afternoon in Armenia, I headed to the zoo with my host. It was a last minute choice, and something left out of the Lonely Planet guide—and what a shame.

The zoo is clearly old school—how I imagine an American zoo looked in the 1950s: too small cages, and plenty of opportunity for human-animal interaction. If one wanted to, one could climb the railing and personally feed the elephants biscuits, one at a time. Or, if you really want, you can chuck a whole loaf of bread into the elephant pen and watch it get eaten in one swallow.

Elephant Feeding

I’m not sure the zoo sanctioned everything that people were doing—the hungry, hungry hippo kept its mouth open and stayed at the front of its pool to make sure that it could catch all the food that was thrown its way.

Hungry, Hungry Hippo

Meanwhile at the back of the zoo, there was one activity encouraged by the zoo: get your photo taken with a lion cub—and pet it! I did neither, but it was definitely a crowd pleaser.

Pet the Lion Cub

8 comments to Old School Zoo

  • J

    Hippos are very cool.

  • B.

    Oh man, I am sooo jealous! As a self-proclaimed zoo nut, I now realize I need to get my ass to Armenia.

    p.s. Hippos are my all-time fav. zoo animal.

  • Ed

    I remember going to the Evansville Zoo back in the 60’s and the Elephants were in small cages with chains around their legs.

  • Disenchanted

    I don’t know. I tend to find zoos (unless they are incredibly well done and spacious) depressing. While I realize that some zoos are involved in species-saving programs, I’ve seen some other smaller zoos that were not well designed and the animals were clearly not healthy. Like Ed said, some of the smaller city zoos had trouble keeping their elephants in good shape because the pens were too small and had too much concrete. The elephants, if I remember correctly, tend to get some kind of foot rot.

    Like I said: depressing.

  • koko

    I pretty much have to agree with Disenchanted. Very few zoos can actually pull off something I’m comfortable with keeping large wild animals.

    However, if it’s done right it’s a fabulous way for people to see animals they probably will never see. But I don’t like the idea of patrons feeding the animals in the zoo.

    The only comforting thing to know is that I know of a few people who work or have worked in zoos and I know they do their best to make them happy and comfy…and when they get sick or die a little piece of them goes with the animal.

  • That lion cub seems to be looking at you as if to say, “Please save me!”

  • @j: These two hippos were certainly cool — and hungry.

    @b: There’s a lot to do in Armenia; the zoo was something fun and cheap, only 150 dram to get in: 33 Euro Cents.

    @ed: Zoos have certainly improved in the last 50 years; at least in the West.

    @disenchanted: aren’t some zoos no longer housing elephants?

    @koko: I adore zoos, every once in awhile… the Indz zoo is pretty good.

    @cq: I was standing between it, and its mother–so it might have wanted to see its mommy, or its sibling who was also inside the cage.

  • mateo

    Chaz and I recently went to the Indy Zoo where Chaz fed a giraffe and I petted a shark. I’m sure it’s more modern than the one you went to, but it kind of gave us the same feeling that you had there. It was small, but a lot of fun, though I did feel sorry for some of the monkeys.