I was delighted to find that the time came sooner than expected - on a slow Sunday after morning coffee, some cereal and researching for my internship projects. Given that the zoo is only a few blocks from my apartment, I decided to google the site for more information: hours, prices, etc, to cover my bases. To my dismay, the reviews were horrible, with warnings of “cramped spaces”, “dirty” and “DO NOT GO THERE” crowding the search. Not one to heed advice from 2008, I listened only to an employee’s public statement, whose explanation included something like “traditional lack of funding” and “current efforts to increase cleanliness, raise awareness and improve conditions for animals”. I felt hopeful and, after grabbing my orange sunglasses and camera, headed out the door around the block to Jawalakhel.
I walked along the busy road, which was filled with small food, little plastic gizmo shops and ice cream coolers, to the ticket counter. Foreign Adults – Rs. 250! I began picturing this suite with a gold-plated, 17th century bathtub and an endless supply of peanuts (what do rhinos eat anyways?). Upon entering, I studied the zoo’s map before looking around. There’s a nice café immediately to the left, followed by a crowded, semi-seedy kids’ roller coaster and playground. They were having a blast! I began the clockwise loop with anticipation and, over the next two hours, found myself giggling, smiling, gasping, observing and, despite some sub-par conditions for the birds, tickled at how entertaining the leisurely afternoon turned out to be.
The first sign I came across:
I had no idea what it said until I walked 20 feet and saw the English equivalent. Before finding it, however, I imagined it reading something like, “If you are not careful, these animals will conspire to drug your momos, cut your pants into short shorts, put you in a cage then alternatively tug at your hair, break your nose, bite your ankles and make you reenact bad Kollywood movies until exhaustion.”
(The English version: “Put yourself in their place… Do not tease zoo animals.”)
I could’ve stayed and watched the animals for hours - they are so interesting and fun to follow. I had to include a photo of the infamous rhino, who got very close while investigating what exactly was going on on the other side of the enclosure (no suite yet). He was awesome.
Other snippets: a teenage boy trying to feed a really ugly vulture a cheeto (it graciously declined), a family of five stuffed in a little seat riding on top of an elephant, and a really pleasant lake at the ground’s center with white paddle boats that can be rented. There were also times when, being the only Caucasian in the crowd, I too was stared at. One person even asked if he could take my picture… I had to giggle at that. Then charged him Rs. 10. (kidding) After making the loop, I sat at the lake’s edge and read a bit – very pleasant indeed.
The last sign I saw:
After reading the second code, I left the zoo with a final vision of a man, leaning comfortably against an exhibit’s fencing, very seriously beginning with, “So a man walks into a bar…”
Overall impressions: although Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital, the zoo just doesn’t have the money to sustain top-notch facilities – a disappointment to some customers who have seen better, but most importantly, unacceptable for the animals housed there. However, there seemed to be great efforts, true to the employee’s quote online, to improve conditions and raise awareness about important issues for visitors, including water scarcity, animal rights and cleanliness. Not to mention, there are some really great animals that are found only in this region of the world. Even without the honeymoon suite, that’s definitely something for which I’d pay Rs. 250.