I admit I was wary when I ventured out to Shanghai Zoo. China isn’t known for its humane treatment of animals. On the contrary, China is better known for its ability to eat anything with four legs. I remember visiting a zoo when I was a high school exchange student in Kunming, China, and coming away from the experience feeling depressed and disheartened by the small enclosures and the malnourished looking animals. I decided to visit Shanghai Zoo with an open mind and hope that China had improved its efforts to provide humane treatment to its animals since my last visit nearly 10 years before. Here’s the good and the bad when it comes to Shanghai Zoo.
The Good: PANDAS!
My main motivation for visiting Shanghai Zoo was to see pandas as I just couldn’t leave China without seeing pandas. Shanghai Zoo’s panda exhibit was definitely the most crowded exhibit at the entire zoo. Even though it was crowded, it wasn’t impossible to get a good spot to watch the pandas eating bamboo and acting adorable. I’ve never seen pandas in real life before, so it was a delight to see these fuzzy balls of adorableness eating, lounging, and walking around looking for more bamboo. The pandas looked they were well taken care of and were a highlight of my zoo visit.
One of my main complaints about living in Shanghai was the lack of green space and parks. Shanghai Zoo honestly seemed more like a beautiful park with animals, since there was a lot more green space and beautiful manicured gardens than there actually were animals. Still, Shanghai Zoo was beautifully kept and I was impressed with the gardens. I visited in fall, so walking around the zoo on a beautiful day, with the autumn sun glowering ahead, was perfect.
The zoo part of “Shanghai Zoo” is actually quite small. There’s not a lot a lot of animals compared to zoo’s I’ve seen before. The zoo did have your standard bear and tiger exhibits, but beyond that there weren’t that many animals on display. The condition of the animals and the size of their enclosures were better than that of the zoo I visited in China over ten years ago, but the animals were not living in luxury.
The Bad: Bad-Behaving Tourists
The Chinese can be a bit more daring, and dare I say, inconsiderate when it comes to personal space and that includes the personal space of animals. There are several signs around the park discouraging visitors from petting the animals, antagonizing the animals, climbing into the enclosures, and giving human food to the animals. When I visited, I saw a Chinese man try to antagonize a large pelican by taking his hand in and out of the pelican’s enclosure. The pelican responded by snapping and tried to bite the inconsiderate guy’s hand off. While that was the only sign of bad visitor behavior I witnessed, I did see the remains of food wrappers in many of the animal’s enclosures.
Overall, Shanghai Zoo was miles above the zoo I visited in Kunming, yet it wasn’t the best zoo I’ve ever been to. I’ve always been a little iffy on zoos, and if you are against zoos in any way I would advise you to skip Shanghai Zoo. If you want to check out pandas, which are kept in good condition, or if you just want to enjoy one of the most beautiful green spaces in western Shanghai, than I would definitely recommend a visit Shanghai Zoo.