The following is guest blog Gareth Wynn-Owen, Deputy Ambassador in Yerevan.
Although I have been in Yerevan for nearly three years, I am still discovering fascinating corners of the city. Over the weekend, my wife Molly and our 16-month daughter Alicia visited the Yerevan Zoo.
It was absolutely scorching as we chugged along in chaotic traffic, heaving because half the roads in the city are currently being repaved. We arrived just as the zoo opened its doors, at 10am. We duly paid our 500 AMD entrance fee and started our tour.
The main courtyard of the zoo is surprisingly peaceful and green, with a fountain in the centre and lovely terracotta coloured original buildings (dating from the zoo’s origins in the 1940s). It’s the kind of place that, with only a slight leap of imagination, one can imagine for a summer evening soiree. It would be infinitely more interesting than yet another reception at a sterile hotel.
The variety of animals is staggering. There are more than 200 different species living in the zoo, ranging from birds indigenous to Armenia to a beautiful white tiger.
The sweetest was the hyena, dancing against the cage begging to be touched (we found out later that a friends’ children do actually pet her and she purrs with gratitude). The most entertaining were the brown bears, which put on a spectacular show, leaping for food and snarling at each other with greed.
As the zoo openly recognizes, the animals are caged in extremely substandard spaces. The cages are tiny, which is wonderful for actually seeing the animals (there isn’t anywhere to hide!) but of course terribly inferior for the animals. The zoo is currently undertaking a massive effort to bring the zoo up to international standards, with plans for natural habitat enclosures. The centre piece of the refurbishment will be a new Big Cat enclosure. Working with world renowned zoo planner Bernard Harrison, the enclose will be nearly 2000 square meters and will present the animals in a natural landscape with a pool, rocks and vegetation.
We will definitely return to the zoo several times before our departure in January. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours. We only hope that the zoo is able to fund raise in order to execute its plans. If you are interested in supporting the development of the zoo, as well as visiting you can also sponsor an animal – a tremendous way of contributing to Armenia.
Thank you to the Zoo for kind permission to use its photographs.