11 Jun 2014
Thousands of people visit Tbilisi Zoo each year but they rarely see what goes on behind the scenes and the effort it takes to care for some of the world’s most endangered animals.
The capital city’s zoo is a green space that’s nestled between main highways, residential living and modern architecture. It’s centrally located and is a favourite past-time for locals.
A visit to the zoo is always an unforgettable experience, as viewers get to closely interact with exotic animals in a safe, secure environment. People young and old gather at the Zoo each weekend to see animals from all corners of the globe and watch them interact, play and observe them in their natural environment.
Last week Georgian journalists had the opportunity to visit Tbilisi Zoo and go behind enclosure walls to see and touch some of the Zoo’s most precious animals and learn about the challenges staff face and the everyday tasks needed to feed and care for the Zoo animals.
Agenda.ge was fortunate to be invited to the media day and it was an experience I will never forget.
As we gathered near the Zoo entrance the first thing we noticed was a large glass aquarium. This is going to be the new home of a group of African Penguins, who are coming to Tbilisi Zoo from the United Kingdom in a few weeks’ time. Zoo staff said they were waiting for their arrival with great anticipation.
Glass aquarium for African Penguins. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
The first animal we visited was one of Africa’s greatest creatures and the largest animal in Tbilisi Zoo – elephant Malka. She is very friendly and loves to eat but doesn’t like it when guests approach her with empty hands.
Malka posing in front of cameras. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
Some say elephants have an incredible memory and do not forget, so we try to make this day memorable for her and feed her plenty to warm her heart.
A journalist finds Malka's weak point, she loves to eat. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
For a brief moment Malka becomes anxious as someone approaches her baby elephant. It’s not wise to get too close to infant elephants as mother elephants are very protective of their young. Loud noise erupted from the enclosure as Malka tried to protect her young, then as the "danger” passed, she regained her composure and once again was a peaceful giant.
Tapi likes to be petted and massaged - look at his happy face. Photo by Tbilisi zoo.
In a nearby enclosure lived another animal that loves to eat – a Tapir. This herbivore has a similar appearance to a pig but has a long snout. Tapir love mud baths, enjoy showers and adore it when people give her a pat, scratch or massage.
First when he saw crowd of people he get afraid and tucked away. But some minutes later Tapi became familiar with guests and enjoyed his massage.
Life never stops when you have to care for ten Lemurs, who always appear to be hungry. Lemurs are primates found only on the African island of Madagascar and its tiny neighbouring islands.
Desert was delicious, I must not leave any crumbs. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
Ring-tailed lemurs are unmistakable because of their long, vividly striped black-and-white tail. Lemurs use their hands and feet to move nimbly through the trees but cannot grip with their tails as some of their primate cousins do. Ring-tailed lemurs also spend a lot of time on the ground, which is unusual among lemur species.
Please, one more banana and I will stop asking you again. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
Ring-tailed lemurs are vegetarians and will gobble up all kinds of vegetables.
Is it a camera? May I say hi to Mom? Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
They are familiar residents of the Zoo and people love to watch them play and enjoy their surroundings. They are highly social creatures and like to communicate with people, especially if they see you as a potential provider of food.
The most exciting part of our visit to the Zoo was meeting the Zoo’s three newborn tiger cubs. They looked like fluffy kittens but in a few months these cute creatures will develop into dangerous wild animals.
A tiger cub tries to demonstrate his strength to the Zoo director. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
Before the tour ended, we visited the reptile enclosure, where we had the opportunity to touch one of the Zoo’s largest snakes. Zoo staff convinced a handful of people to place the friendly Boa Constrictor over their shoulders. The snake’s skin was not as rough as I expected but the snake was very heavy.
There were people who had enough courage to get close to the friendly and heavy snake. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
Guests were also challenged to try the Zoo’s newest adventure obstacle – the hanging rope way. The adventurous aerial activity is the in Georgia and located at Tbilisi Zoo.
Participants must make their way through a combination of different obstacles which are suspended one to seven metres in the air. At first the task looked easy but my first impression was wrong.
The rope way was truly for the adventurous. Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
The rope way has three routes of varying difficulty.
The easiest way is 'junior' – a fun route for kids suitable from the age of three. The route is not too high - only 1.5m above the ground.
A medium difficulty route is 'practice', which challenges people but isn't too difficult. Most of the course is 4-5m above the ground.
A challenger attempts pass the climbing wall, the hardest level of the obstacle course Photo by Tbilisi Zoo.
The hardest level of the obstacle course towers 6m in the air and is called 'expert'. This route involves different activities including climbing over a large climbing wall, cycling on a rope and balancing high in the air.
If adventure activities are not your thing and you prefer to be closer to the animals, why not become a Zoo volunteer and help zookeepers in their daily tasks.
So head down to Tbilisi Zoo and lose yourself in a wonderful environment full of exotic animals.