Imagine yourself wandering amid a jungle surrounded by gigantic trees and overgrown shrubs while listening to a musical chirping of birds. You are enjoying the calmness of nature when not from afar you see some chimpanzees swinging from one vine to the other, a couple of elephants talking a walk near a creek, and a great hornbill sitting on a branch of a tree looking for fruits to eat. It’s mesmerizing to look at them until your heart starts to beat faster when you see a tiger fiercely staring at you. You try to hide behind a tree, but a reticulated python about 5 meters long is crawling near you. The once peaceful scenery is now a home of hungry wild animals. You got an adrenaline rush and ran as fast as you could until you got out of the jungle.
A jungle is a dense forest with tangled vegetation usually found in countries with tropical climates. It hosts a staggering array of species, both flora, and fauna, and is considered the oldest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet. However, due to many factors, including forest conversion and climate change, jungles are becoming small, and wildlife animals are either being killed or rescued and put in captivity. Some of them are taken care of in zoos to save these animals so people can still see their kind. Yet not everyone is pleased to see these wild species in enclosed facilities.
Suppose you are a person who views a zoo as cruel prison for animals and does not support continually forced captivity of animals. In that case, there are plenty of ways to watch them in their native habitats and live their lives the way nature intended them to. So here are some alternatives to see wildlife other than zoos:
1. Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is a treatment and care facility for injured or sick animals so they can be taken care of before they can be released back to the wild. Visiting this facility is a great way to learn about specific animal species present in your area. These are not only limited to land animals but also marine species. If you live in a coastal area, there may be marine life sanctuaries or marine protected areas that you may consider visiting.
2. Bird Observatory Center
A bird observatory center is a facility for studying bird migration and bird populations focused mainly on local birds. Most bird observatories operate with limited staff and volunteers for non-profit educational activities. So check your area for nearby bird observatories to give you a better appreciation for our feathered friends, and don’t forget to bring your binoculars and your camera.
3. Farm Animal Sanctuary
Farm Animal Sanctuary is home to animals rescued from slaughter in the animal agriculture industry. This facility provides food, shelter, and medical care to farm animals such as cows, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, sheep, and many others. These sanctuaries offer an interactive and engaging experience so you can see up close and personal some farm animals. Spending some time with these amazing creatures will make you reconsider your eating habits.
4. Explore a River Nearby
You don’t need to go far to see interesting animals. You can take a walk and explore some bodies of water like a tidepool, creek, or river near you. Water is a source of life, making it a home to many aquatic animal and plant species. You can take a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat to make it more fun. You can also take a swim or snorkeling and bring your underwater camera to take amazing shots with fish and crustaceans. Just avoid crocodiles and snakes if they are present in the area.
5. Visit an Eco Park
Eco Park or Ecological park is generally a protected area having abundant trees and plants and sometimes offer various facilities such as benches, playgrounds, water fountains, and other equipment to enjoy leisure and rest. Eco-park can give a different experience of appreciating an ecosystem of plants and animals. For instance, in Mangrove Eco Parks, you can see both the different species of mangrove and the aquatic animals thriving in brackish water. There you see crabs, juvenile snappers, sea trout, mudskipper, snails, birds, and others. You can enjoy the fresh air in eco-parks while taking a walk, listening to your favorite songs, drawing a portrait, or writing an article, plus you get a close observation of the interactions between plants and animals. Eco Park is a good place to unwind and escape from urban noise.
6. Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality
Virtual reality or augmented reality can never replace the sensations of seeing wild animals for real and the natural habitat where they belong. However, it gives a different experience, especially to tech-savvy groups. VR or AR can still educate and inspire people of the different wild animals without going to zoos or animal centers. It will also discourage animal captivity and lessen the stress for animals when people are physically interacting with them. It is also economical compared to zoos, which spend a lot on maintaining animals, which sometimes end up in poor conditions.
These are just some alternatives to seeing wildlife animals outside zoos. And most, if not all of them have one common purpose – to save the wildlife species from becoming extinct so many people, especially the young generations, can see them in real life. Let us, however, do not consider a zoo as a prison facility for animals because some of them serve as a refuge and a rescued center for animals. Zoos also offer a safe facility for people to interact with animals, and they serve as a great place for educational tours for students.
As the highest species in the Animal Kingdom, we humans are responsible for taking good care of other animals. More importantly, wild animal species which are either threatened or endangered. We should conserve and protect their natural habitats and treat them with respect. Because, after all, we all live on one planet.