Khao Kheow Open Zoo Chonburi
A Large Zoo Between Bangkok and Pattaya
The Khao Kheow Open Zoo is located in the Chonburi Province of Thailand. The zoo is home to a large variety of animals. Unlike the name suggests most the animals are kept in pens and cages but by Thai standards the areas they are kept in are quite large. You will also see different species of monkeys, deer, lizards and a couple Bear Cats (Binturong) walking around and hanging out.
You can reach the zoo in a variety of ways depending on where you are coming from. If you take a bus or van there is a tram service that will take you around the park. You can easily get on and off the tram at the various displays. If you drive a car or motorbike (we went in a car) you have to pay an entry fee for your vehicle. As most attractions the entry fee for a foreigner is more than it is for a Thai National. It's simply something you need to be accustom to while visiting Thailand.
When you first arrive you pass through the entry gates in your vehicle. There you will buy your tickets and pay for your vehicle if you bring one. If you arrive by tour the driver or guide will handle all of that. Once you pass the gates there is a parking area. There we found a lot of vendors selling brown paper bags full of veggies and bananas at a huge mark-up for feeding the animals. If you plan to feed the animals and you are on a budget swing by a Makro or your local market before you go and pick up some bananas, carrots, corn and beans. If you bring corn the cobs should be cut into 3 pieces. For the 100 baht they charge at the zoo you could bring a lot of food for the animals.
I used this parking area to setup some of my camera gear and we stretched our legs. There were some monkeys climbing around on one of the buildings there and that let me set my camera settings as well. You are not allowed to smoke in the park so I also took the opportunity to have one last cigarette before heading in.
We then began to drive into the park. The first area we stopped at was the Flamingos in front of a large rock sign with the park name on it. This was actually one of the nicer displays in the whole park (I didn't know this at the time) and it is worth taking a few minutes to just sit and watch the Flamingos in peace.
Our next stop driving down the road was the Hippos. I had never seen a Hippo in real life before and wanted to make a point to go see these large animals. When I had looked on the website I saw this beautiful large enclosure with the Hippos swimming around and I really wanted to see it. Unfortunately when we arrived at the enclosure I was very disappointed. The enclosure was not nice at all. It was certainly quite large but it was not nearly as lush and easily accessed as they show on the website.
The water was stagnant and dark, the grass was brown and in patches and there was concrete visible throughout the area.
One of the more interesting experiences was as we were walking around the Hippo enclosure on the large bridge. As we started to head down towards the water 2 Thai girls looked into a tree and screamed. They then froze and stood perfectly still glaring into a tree. Of course being curious I had to see what they were so stunned by and we immediately walked over to look. There in the tree were 2 Bear Cats or Binturongs as they call them in Asia.
I had already had previous experience with these animals so I found it quite funny anyone would have any fear of these lovely creatures. In fact this particular pair of Bear Cat were just juveniles and quite small compared to the adults I had played with in the past. We spent about 20 minutes feeding the one bananas and just enjoying its company. It was a really nice experience to feed an animal like this and watch it chew down on some bananas. In hindsight we should have peeled the bananas for him but he made do crunching through the peel with his sharp teeth. If you do decide to feed one of these guys and you are not calm, just put the food in its dish DO NOT hand feed it. They can pick up on your anxiety and they have a wicked bite.
Once we cleared the Hippo enclosure we headed over to the "African Savanna" area because Pang wanted to see some Zebras and I wanted to watch the Rhinos. I had also read that there are white lions and was curious to see them as well.
Again came disappointment when we saw the enclosures. Going by the name Open Zoo I expected to see Zebra running in a vast field, Rhinos walking with them and Lions in a separate large area. I really need to learn to lower my expectations in Thailand.
The Rhinos are kept in a small dirty pen. They have broken horns from fighting each other and they seemed generally agitated the entire time we were there. One was actually continually banging its head on a railing, I am assuming out of frustration. The website states you can feed them but there are signs everywhere saying not to feed the Rhinos. We were there when the caretaker was feeding them and he seemed just as unhappy to be doing his job as the Rhinos seemed to be in their pens. He simply tossed straw onto their heads and moved on in a grumpy manner.
The Zebra were kept in a small pen similar to a stable yard at a horse farm. They had little room to move around and are kept next to the Lion enclosure. It was very strange watching them, these peaceful animals eating tree leaves and sniffing the air as lions roared 30 meters away.
The Lions are kept in a rock faced, low fenced enclosure with a transparent window you can look through to see them laying on a rock placed directly in front of the glass. At one point one of the lions was up on the glass trying to get at one of the people on the other side. She did not seem very happy. The fence around the area is not very high and in my opinion could easily be jumped by one of these large cats.
Next to all that is a large open area surrounded by a trench and a fence with Gazelle, goats and other similar animals running and playing. These animals seemed to have the most freedom and you can watch them play with one another. Again this area is directly across from the lions.
Farther back is the bear and lizard enclosures which had no activity when we went back. The bears were in a cave and had no interest in coming out. The only lizard we saw was a water monitor at the hippo enclosure.
At this point we decided to leave. The zoo was not that nice of a place to be in all honesty and between seeing animals who were miserable being penned up and having monkeys running up to us and trying to take our belongings we didn't want to see any more.
The Khao Kheow Open Zoo to me is not a place I would visit after seeing how the animals are kept. However, as far as the standards of how animals are kept in Thailand, the treatment of them at this zoo are above normal. That is always the issue when it comes to animal tourism in Asia. The standards are very very low. Either you want to look the other way and see the attraction or you disagree with the treatment and in that case you really shouldn't be supporting Thailand tourism in general. The zoo itself offers a large variety of animals and if you have children you may find it to be an enjoyable day. I can't recommend going but if you are going to go to a zoo in Thailand it is probably the nicest you will find.
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