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Monday, February 20, 2012

Can't Take No for Ueno -- Our Trip to Ueno Zoological Gardens (Japan Naman part 2)


If you've been an old-time TaDi reader, I guess you'll know by now that I aside from digital media, movies and heritage, I am an enthusiast of the wildlife.   In fact, as I shared before, this passion has prompted me to dream of becoming a part of National Geographic.  :)

Oh well, that was just a childhood fantasy but I can still feel the remnants of that dream.  During my recent trip to Japan, I learned that Ueno Zoological Gardens, the oldest zoo in Japan which was founded in 1882, provides home to two new giant pandas!  Its original panda Lingling, which was brought to Japan in 1972 together with another panda, died in 2008 due to old age.  I've actually saw pandas already in 2003 during my visit to Hong Kong's Ocean Park.  But I guess, these creatures have really a soft spot in my heart and I can't afford not to see them again when there's a chance.  I just can't take no for Ueno!  :)

This post is actually the second of the Japan Naman series but this is not the first in my itinerary.  I just wanted the series to be free flowing and not follow a chronological path just like my Explore Singapore series.   My trip to Ueno Zoo took place during the 5th day of our trip.  I actually lobbied for it to my travel buddies a night before our last full day in Japan.  Our planned trip to Ueno Zoo during our 3rd did not happen due to lack of time.  

And come Day 5, the child in me resurfaced a new as we explored the Ueno Zoological Gardens.  And let me share with you the favorite views I witnessed during the tour.

This is the facade of Ueno Zoo.  From a regular ticket price of 600 Yen, we got a 120 yen discount each for having the Tokyo Tourist coupon and passport!

Of course, our first stop was the place of the Giant Pandas!  :)  The endangered giant panda is considered a national treasure in China. 

These new pair of pandas called Bili (male) and Xiannu (female) were leased by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government from China for 10 years.  The government will pay around 90 million year each year to China to fund wild animal protection programs.  Beijing will allocate the funds to preserve the endangered species' habitat and conduct research on pandas.

WWF, the world's premier conservation organization estimates that there are 1,600 pandas in the wild, with 980 of them under protection in China's panda reserves. 

The zoo's first pair of pandas arrived in 1972, marking the signing of a peace treaty between Japan and China.  The new set of pandas arrived February last year.  Ueno Zoo allocated 90 million yen to facelift the pandas' cage, install floor heating, set a playground with sandbox and landscaping, including safety features. 
The pair is treated with rare bamboo from the central Japanese mountain of Izu that is similar to what they used to eat in China.
WWF's symbol is Panda to signify its conservation efforts.

Then there's the adorable Polar Bear!  :)

Hedwig!  :D  A snowy owl!

Sea Lion


The Lion King!

The cute Red Panda!  :)

After the red panda, my travel buddies Carl and Rach and myself took a break.  While they are buying food, I took these shots of curious kids!  :)

And Carl bought this Panda meal!

Oh my, Carl is eating the panda!  Carl, Carl, stop!  :)





We fed the pigeons!

The prairie god looks angry guarding their territory! 

And as we go out of the zoo, I again captured these moments from other tourists.

This pagoda and tea ceremony house was built in 1631 and was rebuilt in 1958 after it was destroyed by fire.  This was built to entertain shoguns in the 17th century and still stands as a historic structure in Ueno Zoo grounds.

While waiting for my turn, I asked Carl to take photos of the playful kid who loved the stuffed giant panda!  :)

Oh Chiz Carls can't help but hug the giant panda!

Rach on the other hand fell in love with the red pandas!  :)

Haist, I should have bought this toy!  :D

As we exit the zoo, we found this WWF marker at Ueno Zoo.

According to WWF Hong Kong (www.wwf.org.hk), WWF has long supported the legitimate role of zoos in conservation, education, and research. For example, captive breeding programmes managed by zoos can provide positive benefits for species conservation if designed and used appropriately, and if they are part of a science-based conservation management plan for the species. Such programmes may act as a platform for zoologists, veterinarians and others to conduct research designed to enhance understanding of the biology of the species.

WWF can support zoo conservation programmes that:

* are beneficial to the species in the wild, and enhance their conservation, using carefully monitored science-based programmes for removal of wild specimens only when necessary for controlled breeding, research, or educational purposes;

* are open to the public for purposes of education about the species, its habitat, and conservation threats, and are used to increase support for the actions necessary to save the species in the wild;

* provide funds, technical expertise, or other support to range states of the species concerned, to benefit the conservation of the species in the wild.

Outside Ueno Zoo

I learned that Ueno Zoo has been the flagship of the Japanese Zoo World and I admire the stories I heard about the studies they conduct and the support they gave to wildlife conservation efforts.  While there are threats to wildlife and that conservation efforts is very much needed, I only wish that some of the enclosures (cages) will be expanded (or improved) to make it closer to the animals' natural habitat (e.g. the pygmy hippos, the giraffes, the rhinos etc.) so that they can live a little like in the wild.  I know this is an old zoo already and it could be the reason why some of the cages are small and are still in bars or wires.  'But with Japan's ingenuity, resources, political will and of course innate love for the environment, improving the said small enclosures will be so much easy for them. 

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