I spent all of last weekend in Shanghai with my girlfriend, with two main purposes: to do some shopping for summer clothes; and to visit Shanghai Zoo, as my girlfriend has never seen any wild animals in the flesh, despite being quite expert on them from being addicted to CCTV-10’s nature shows and BBC natural science documentaries.
Shanghai Zoo is one of two such tourist attractions in the city, the other being the Shanghai Wildlife Park, which has an online petition for its closure from overseas animal-rights activists, and has been the scene in recent years of cruel stunts such as the ‘Animal Olympics’ and ‘Buy a duckling to feed to the crocodiles’.
Shanghai Zoo though has managed to remain boringly uncontroversial. And as there are few interesting or recent reviews of it online, here’s my input on the matter and my review of the place.
If you’re visiting Shanghai for the first time from out of town, or from overseas, then the answer is ‘no’. There’s plenty more to see in Shanghai to keep you occupied for a week without needing to see the zoo.
However, if you’re in the area and really want to have a pleasant morning or afternoon looking at a halfway decent variety of wildlife, then Shanghai Zoo is worth half a day of your time, at a reasonable price. If you have kids, you could make it a day-trip, but be prepared to walk several kilometres.
Shanghai Zoo is westwards of the city centre, near Hongqiao airport. There are buses direct from the city center that go out past the zoo (such as from People’s Square), but that’ll be a long, hot ride in Summer. The way I did it I think was best: get to Hongqiao Road metro station (it’s on Lines 3 and 4), and then get onto Hongqiao Road itself, and, heading westwards, go to the nearest bus stop (just 100 metres away), and take either the 748 or 911 bus. Both buses are just 2 RMB each and have air-con, but are almost always busy. The ride is about 20 to 30 minutes on the bus, depending on traffic.
Two options: either a standard 30 RMB each ticket for access to pretty much everything, or a 45 RMB ticket that adds the ‘Elephant Show’ which runs from 2 to 3pm each day. Note that without getting that added extra you won’t actually get to see elephants clearly, as the rest of the time they’re just locked up in their little elephant house.
The birds and the bees
The reptiles area and the bird enclosures where the best part of the zoo, in that they had the best variety of species and better looking environments. There was also a nice park-like atmosphere. Many birds, such as pheasants, flamingoes and peacocks had had their wings clipped, which is a pity, but it explains how they were able to be kept in the open, divided from you by only a low mesh fence. A large bird-house with 10-metre high netting, where smaller exotic birds could fly freely, was a nice touch.
The big beasts
The other animals however were more of a disappointment, especially in terms of their environments; which were mostly rocky, dusty, and often littered with trash. Is a bit of grass that hard to grow? The bears especially had a miserable, barren patch of rubble on their enclosure.
In fairness though, the tigers and lions, in their large open pits, had better landscaping, and the big cats looked healthy and active.
Pandas, being China’s national icon and diplomatic gift of choice, had – perversely – the most miserable looking house. Set inside a concrete building, with concrete floors and white-tiled walls, it was viewable to the eager throngs of humans through thick glass, and it was a disappointment that they did not have an outside ‘pit’, such as the big cats and bears.
I suspect, though, it was to prevent the pandas being fed stuff by us humans, who, despite the ‘Love me. Don’t feed me’ signs all over the place, were constantly being thrown pieces of bread, peanuts, and various snacks.
In addition, there were the fun gorillas, monkeys, kangaroos and lots of less ‘popular’ four-legged stuff such as deers, bison, zebras, etc. The elephants, annoyingly, were locked away and barely visible, and seemed to be viewable only at their ‘showtime’ if you’d bought the 45 RMB ticket that included the ‘Elephant Show’.
Thankfully that was the only ‘show’ in the zoo, and no animals were made to perform elsewhere in any fashion, which was a huge relief.
If you’re a local or expat in the area, Shanghai Zoo is actually worth the quite low 30 RMB price tag, despite it being a bit of a trek from the centre of the city. In addition to the animals, there’s some nice park area, and a large lake at the centre.