A couple of weeks ago, my younger brother decided to take his 2 three years old twins to the zoo. I was thrilled to be invited; I’ve never seen wild animals but on TV. So you can imagine my excitement… [more than the kids]
We arrived to Nahr el Kaleb, to visit the Animal City zoo; you are immediately greeted by an awful smell as soon as you open the car’s door. But I couldn’t care less: I thought this was normal, since I’ve never visited a zoo in my life.
The tickets are 7000 L.L. ($4.67) for the adults, and 24,000L.L. ($16) for the kids, who also got 2 free small bags of rotten apples to feed the animals. That wasn’t cheap, so my expectations got even higher; I started imagining dragons in cages, breathing fire to hotdogs sticks you point at them.
And we got in.
The first cage was… chicken! 2 roosters and around 10 hens in a 2 x 2m cage that smells like a dead body.
We immediately skipped it to the next one: pigeons. Same smell. Skipped again.
3rd cage: Peafowl (white peacock). Those were nice, but the smell kept getting stronger. It felt like the cages were never cleaned before. So we took a very short look at them, and kept walking.
Donkeys? Ok. We’re in Lebanon. I don’t know about today’s kids, but I’ve seen too many donkeys in my life, and I wasn’t impressed.
I skipped those to see the lamas; the picture was on the cage’s door. But the lamas were sleeping.
A few meters away, gazelles… those were nice. But they were too afraid. So I left them alone and kept moving.
Hyenas… Woohoo… finally something new. The kids rushed to feed them apples, same way they did with every animal they’ve encountered so far. I immediately jumped in to inform them that hyenas are carnivorous animals (animal channel), as the first apple landed in the cage; one of the hyenas jumped over it and started devouring the fruit. I was completely shocked. So I picked up my phone: “Ok Google…”
Apparently, when hungry, hyenas eat anything.
We moved on, from cage to cage. Cows, monkeys, sheep, bears… wait. Bears? Excited again. A big male and female light brown bears. They were fighting for the apples.
Left to the bears’ cage, *drum roll*… lions; 2 males, probably dead, cause they didn’t move a muscle, and were sleeping (dead) on their side with their butts towards the visitors. And 1 female, laying on the floor, watching kids, like lambs, throw apples at it.
I’ve never seen real lions before, but those looked sick to me. One apple landed 2 cm away from the lion’s head: it didn’t move.
Same thing with the 2 tigers in the next cage; they didn’t move.
Those are the animals I was really looking forward to see. But for some reason it wasn’t exciting anymore. It felt disappointing. I didn’t want to see rugs. I wanted to see animals that are alive, running, jumping, roaring…
The rest of the visit, I was worried about the safety of the kids, and the well-being of the animals; the zoo was so dirty. Flies everywhere. Animals looked sick. The zoo keepers were untrained, and couldn’t tell the difference between a hyena and a wolf. Electric wires were popping out of the walls.
The rest of the trip turned into a shocking scene, when we reached the ducks and geese; the water was green. Not blue, nor transparent. Green. Potato chips bags and tissues were floating on the surface.
I know the Lebanese visitors are to blame for the trash, but it’s part of the Zoo keepers job to keep the animals, their environment and their cages/pounds clean.
What started as an exciting day, turned into a nightmare. The animals of Animal City zoo were living the Lebanese life as well; dirty and unsafe facility, poorly fed animals (remember hyenas eating apples), and untrained staff.
We skipped the rest of the cages and pounds, and rushed to the exit as flies and the unbearable smell kicked us out.
It’s up to you to visit Animal City zoo, but it’s better if you don’t expose your kids to such scenery and risk; it’s not worth it.
If you’ve watched any reports about Lebanese jails and how prisoners are treated, you wouldn’t expect zoos to be any better, or animals to be treated well. It’s a real disaster.