There are warning signs about the Myanmar Zoo. The leaflet displays a photo of a dog jumping through a flaming hoop. If that’s not bad enough Tripadvisor is full of comments like ‘No words describe the sadness that is the Yangon Zoo so sad.’
To save yourself heartache I strongly recommend, just don’t go there. Instead go to the Hlawga National Park, which is an ecological and wildlife treasure that is within an hours drive from downtown Yangon.
Walking through the streets of Yangon at dawn you become acutely aware of the stray dogs, who survive on scraps, it’s a fight for life. In 2012 Yangon opened it’s first animal shelter and they welcome volunteers who have a passion for animal welfare. For expats or long term visitors this maybe an option.
Wildlife sanctuaries offer a weekend option for those people wanting a tranquil escape from the city. The Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary is an island in the Ayeyarwady Delta
Here is the home of crocodiles, dolphins, turtles and other creatures that live in the estuaries of the delta. It maybe a bit of schlep but it must be better than the zoo. The Sanctuary is 150 km from Yangon, near Bogale (about 4 hours by road). Staying overnight means you can experience the Sanctuary by day, and hire a boat for night spotting of crocodiles. It is also possible to go to the coast to experience the sea turtles at Gayetgyi and Gadongalay islands.
The Sanctuary headquarters in the Myanmar Forest Department compound towards the northern end of the Strand Road of Bogale can arrange boat and guides. There is limited accommodation at ranger stations. It is advisable to telephone to arrange accommodation (+95 (0) 45 45578). The NGO FREDA also have sanctuary guesthouse with some accommodation (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone +95 1 243827)
For tourists with time, outside Yangon there national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the northern and eastern regions of Myanmar at which you can hope to see the wild life of Myanmar such as Indochinese tiger, Indochinese leopard, Indian elephant, asiatic black bear Gaur (indian bison), deer and many species of monkeys.
Other options include the marine life in the Lampi Marine National Park in the Myeik Archipelago in the Tanintharyi Region of southern Myanmar, Elephants near Inle Lake or to see and the birds of Nat Ma Taung National Park (Mount Victoria National Park) in the Chin State or Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Mohnyin Township, Kachin State.
So why avoid the Myanmar Zoo?
The joy of the zoo is being able to get so close to the animals, as you can all but touch them. The zoo provides an opportunity to show children the animals of Myanmar. However, for adults the experience is marred by the less than ideal conditions in which the animals must live.
Today, we’re told that we’re in for a treat at the animal circus. It’s here we’ll see animals not for their natural beauty or behavior but performing tricks as they trained to perform.
The high point of the presentation was the magician doing sleight of hand tricks. Then it went downhill. While banned in India, snake charmers seem a regular site at festivals, and here today at the zoo. A dancing lady enters the stage placing a woven basket on the ground. As the lid is released a terrified a cobra is pulled by the tail and dropped on the stage. The Snake Charmer teases it, dancing around, her arms waving through the air. She kneels, distracts the animal, then kissed it’s head. The snake lashes at her arm. Next, a Burmese python is paraded around the stage.
The finale is the elephant parade. If you enjoy watching elephants trained to kick a ball into a soccer goal, or dance on a small stool, then this is the show for you.
Away from the animal show visitors are encouraged to explore the cages, full, stuffed full of animal exhibits.
Birds, stunning beautiful birds, Macaws spread their wings in the hope of a long flight while others clutch onto the rusty wire.
For some overexcited child temptation takes hold as she wacks a blow-up toy at a monkey that’s holding onto the wire of it’s cage. The animal dives away, and this is all in front of a sleep zoo attendant.
There is nothing more to say than this place is not worth the time nor energy. Visiting national parks and wildlife sanctuaries supports the animals and other wild life that live there, and also supports the people that live in or next to the sanctuaries by providing employment and business opportunities in these rural communities.