Despite my various trips to Jamaica I had never visited Jamaica Zoo. In fact, it’s actually a relatively new attraction to Jamaica, located close to YS Falls. At the time of my visit in March 2013, the zoo was quite empty. In fact, my family and I arrived so early in the day that we were the only guests at the zoo, although after a long drive from Portland we were glad to be out of the car and able to finally start our sightseeing in this part of the island before heading to beach.
The zoo visit started with an introduction by an animal handler in the petting area of the zoo. Here, there is an opportunity to handle animals from rabbits and guinea pigs to snakes and more. Personally, I’m not a big fan of getting too close animals so I stayed at the edge of the group as photographer, allowing my younger cousin to take pride of place as she handled at snake…. impressive at just three years old!
After the petting zoo, visitors start their tour of the main zoo which is guided by a member of staff for safety reasons. Here we were able to see lions and zebra amongst other animals, the less harmful of which roam in open pens as opposed to the cages that house more fearsome animals.
In all honesty, I found it a little difficult to enjoy the experience of seeing the animals enclosed like this. I couldn’t escape the feeling that animals aren’t intended to be kept in cages for our ‘pleasure’. It makes me uncomfortable to see them like this and whilst I have visited others like Sao Paulo Zoo (Parque Zoologico de Sao Paulo), I felt that the animals here were unfortunately in quite poor condition.
The caged lion seemed particularly sad to me and we witnessed him behaving angrily when approached by the staff of the zoo. They purposely aggravated him for our photo opportunity (which we promptly asked the staff not to do).
Overall, visiting the zoo was an interesting experience in Jamaica although I’m not certain that I would return there as a first choice. The condition of animals (particularly in the cages) was a concern and detracted from it being a completely enjoyable time. The petting zoo was a good experience though and I do feel that for younger children it remains a good learning experience.
What is your opinion of zoos in general? Are you a fan or do you dislike the idea of caging nature?