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Chiangmai Zoo is currently offering children from both private and government run schools the wonderful opportunity to learn first hand about the many fascinating animals who live there and the importance of preserving their environment, whilst having a great day out into the bargain. "Kiddy's Day at the Zoo" is a government sponsored program, which will be running until 30th September 2003. Expert instructors will educate the schoolchildren on the habitat, diet, appearance and behavior of the different species and hope to instill in them a sense of the importance of wildlife conservation. Schools should contact the Chiangmai Zoo Public Relations Office to book a full day educational walking tour on any weekday, excluding holidays.

An American missionary called Harold Mason Young, who began collecting wild animals during his time teaching the Thai border police forest survival skills, established Chiangmai Zoo. He kept his menagerie in his large garden until it became overcrowded and he asked the Thai Forestry Department for land to open a zoo. In 1955 he was given 60 rai of land at the foot of Doi Suthep and the animals were relocated. In 1977 the Royal Zoological Society of Thailand took over the operation of the zoo and it became the first place in Thailand where visitors could observe animals close up in a simulated natural habitat.

Today, the zoo is situated off Huay Kaew Road on 531 rai (250 acres) of hilly terrain in the shadow of Doi Suthep and is home to some 106 different species of mammal, 257 bird varieties and 31 reptiles. Some creatures including, the tiger and the remarkable but threatened serow are native to the country whilst others like the African Lion and Cape Fur Seal have been introduced. Its ideal location means that visitors can spend the morning wandering through the zoo followed by an afternoon enjoying the scenery in the cooler mountains. The zoo comprises four areas : the cage area, the open zoo, in which you will encounter spotted deer, Hog deer, Barking Deer, Brow Anther deer, Alpaca and Peacocks, among other animals.

The breeding area and the recreational area by a pleasant lake. This is an ideal spot for bird watching and also has picnicking and overnight camping facilities. A waterfall, Adventure station and nature trail are also located here. Staying overnight provides children with the opportunity to observe the nocturnal habits of some of the animals. Visitors have the option of walking through the grounds or driving for those less active. They can also travel by service car and benefit from the knowledge of the zoo guide. A network of well sign-posted and shaded paths connects the different sections and refreshments are readily available.

In early July, Chiangmai Zoo will be celebrating the arrival of its two latest occupants. Park Officials will be returning from China with two rare pandas who will reside in their own multi million baht panda reserve. The gentle giants are a gift from the Chinese government to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The construction of the compound is progressing on schedule and will be opening to the public in September 2003. It is hoped that the two star attractions will participate in a breeding program to help preserve this endangered species so future generations won't miss out on the opportunity to observe these amazing creatures.

In the meantime, there are many other attractions and exhibits to help keep visitors entertained, including the Humboldt Penguin enclosure and the fresh water Aquarium which is home to sixty different species of tropical fish, such as the Giant Mae Khong Catfish. There is also a small island inhabited by a colony of gibbons who live freely, unhampered by nets or cages and of course, there are many Asiatic Elephants.

Visitors can enjoy an elephant performance in which these remarkable creatures get to show off their dancing and harmonica playing skills much to everyone's amusement. Members of the public can also pat the elephants and feed them bananas. Another possibility is to take the Nakornping walk through the aviary with the chance to observe over 800 birds in 2.5 acres. Spending a day at the zoo is the perfect way to get acquainted with hippopotamus, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, Malayan tapir, sarus crane, barking deer and Indian rhinoceros. The list goes on and on.

A trip to Chiangmai Zoo is an excellent day out for children and adults alike and the entrance fee is very reasonable. It is a renowned center of research and conservation and is instrumental to the preservation of many endangered species. Visitors to the zoo can have a fantastic day out and feel confident that the animals are well looked after. The entrance fee is 50 baht for adults, 10 baht for concessions and 5 baht for children. Opening hours are 8.00-18.00 Hrs. Tel. 053-221179, 358116, 222479, 226194, 222283.

At the Zoo

A father and his small son were standing in front of the tiger's cage at the zoo. The father was explaining how ferocious and strong tigers are, and junior was taking it all in with a serious expression.

Dad,"the boy said finally, "if the tiger got out of his cage and ate you up " "Yes, son?" the father said expectantly. "What bus should I take home?" the boy finished.

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