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The Sad Decline of the Tel Aviv Zoo

Updated: Dec 23, 2019

We have visited the Safari in Ramat Gan a few times throughout the years. It is sort of a combination of the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Zoo . But over the years, San Diego has invested millions of dollars to renew and continue leading the world in preserving animals otherwise inaccessible to the world at large . I was raised in San Diego and I have many fond memories of school trips and family visits to both the zoo and the Wild Animal Park, not to mention Sea World. When I take my children there I hardly recognise it from my youth because of all the changes that have been made there. However, the Safari is the same as it was way back when it was started in the 70's. Nothing has been added or improved. The signs telling you where to go, the information on the animals and photo spots are peeling ,faded and outdated.

It's not easy to care for so many animals and I hope they are doing the best they can for our 4 legged friends, but as someone who also owns animals and runs a farm, I know it takes more than just money to keep the animals happy and healthy. You have to put in the effort, the hours and the care to make sure each animal is getting what they need: physically and emotionally. It takes love, patience and understanding. I'm not saying they aren't doing these things, I really do hope they are, but watching the animals, it's easy to see where at least some things have gone wrong.

The animals' enclosures are sad, small and old. The animals themselves are bored, and sowing signs of losing their minds: pacing, antipathy and marks on their body showing signs of self harm and/or a disregard for self grooming .

There is electric fence in every enclosure. Usually climbing the wall as well as on the ground in front of the fence so that they can't even approach the fence . It surrounds the small animals' enclosures , (such as lemurs, monkeys, ..... ) as well as the big ones ( bears, elephants, giraffes).

They are blatant, obvious and encircling every part of the enclosure. The birds of prey are in small pens with a low roof. These beautiful birds have a huge wing span that they need to stretch, but they have no where to use them.

The animals are often times alone. If the managers of the safari understood that these animals are social animals and they need to be with others, they would make sure that they were together with others, but as it is, many of the big cats (and others) are alone, pacing and miserable.

Many of the enclosures contain abandoned, faded, broken, no longer working parts, plants or otherwise inhospitable enclosures to the specific animals.

The energy there is just sad. It seems like the people who run this place don't care about the animals, only about the money coming in. Why haven't they updated anything? Why are the signs out of date? Why are there only two snakes in the snake house?

The penguins had a place that apparently wasn't windy or cool enough for them , because 6 industrial fans have been added , not to the scenery to make it nice for visitors to see or for the penguins to enjoy, but just stuck around in random places facing different directions. They are old, ugly and dirty with electric wires out in the open making a noise that is difficult to talk over. Imagine living there as a penguin day in and day out.

There are two parts to the Safari. The first is the African Safari and then the zoo. The African

Safari means you drive your car following a road that travels throughout a big area where zebra, buffalo , rinos, hippos and ibex roam around. This is the same road that brings in construction workers, visitors and school buses. Anyone can get out of their car, drop trash , feed the animals junk food, or honk their horn ( it is suggested that you don't, but there isn't anyone there to enforce the rules ) .

The pollution from the cars, the cement trucks and contstuction workers with their materials, the taunting from the cars, the possibility of a rhino overturning a car, a stampede or someone hitting an animal with their car. Anything is possible and it is still allowed. Besides the animals having to endure all of this, they are placed on the opposite side of a wall from the freeway, so that there is never quiet for them and the pollution is harmful.

The water in each of the enclosures is brown, swampy and smelly. From the duck pond to the bears' pool, the water looks like it hasn't been cleaned or taken care of in a year or more.

On a more positive side, all the animals in the park are well fed with the correct foods . We saw the giraffes being hand fed from grain buckets, elephants being fed hay and hanging fruit skewers for the bats.

The gift shop should be a place where the visitors get to take home some souvenir of the experience they just had at the safari which in turn provides more income for the zoo. Instead it's filled with a bunch of overpriced, low quality toys that don't celebrate the animals they just saw . It is also privately owned, so the money spent there doesn't find it's way back to provide for animals care.

It is Hanukka in a few days and the entire store is decorated in Christmas theme. Not one decoration or item was on display with a Hanukka theme. Not one mention of our holiday happening in just a few days time. I have nothing against Christmas or those who celebrate it, but this is a Jewish country with our own holidays to celebrate and be proud of . The visitors are mostly Jews: families, school children , young and retired couples. So why is it completely absent from view? As if we still aren't being recognised for living here. What is the message being given? Where is the pride? Shouldn't it be representative of Israel?

I know I should't expect too much. This isn't San Diego, after all. But it seems that no one is really caring for the animals and that is the saddest thing. There are rumours that they want to move the safari because it is placed inside a residential neighborhood in the middle of a city on prime property. Without a direct route from the freeway, there is traffic needlessly brought into neighborhoods that could otherwise be quiet and free from traffic , parking and noise.

The Negev desert is mostly empty . This is a perfect place for a new Safari. It's open , it's undeveloped, it's climate is suitable for most of the desert animals in the zoo. A new modern zoo could be built bringing with it jobs and tourism out to the Negev. An infrastructure planning for the future could be included to bring cars directly from the freeway without having to intrude on new local neighborhoods . This was the dream of David Ben Gurion: to make the desert bloom. To build on the Negev as a future hub of Israel . So many untapped resources and opportunities lay in the Israeli desert. Moving the Safari to the south would kick start all of this and give our beloved animals the attention and respect they deserve.

But no one has made the decision to move it out of the city where the animals would have more room, clean air and better enclosures. Maybe it's a political battle, maybe it's lack of funds (although from the price of admission, I doubt that very much), or maybe it's lack of forethought . Either way, the animals are suffering and it shows. The system is in need of a major remodeling , from updating the enclosures, to understanding the psychology of the animals ,to how the entire safari is set up to be respectful of the both animals and of the visitors . I hope one day things will change. If not, they risk the chance of losing both .

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