WILDLIFE WITHIN ONE’S GRASP
By Kamila Delart
SEE ALSO: WILDLIFE PARK LANGKAWI
Living in a river chalet surrounded by lush tropical greenery, I don’t have to go far to experience wildlife. I’m sharing my house with geckos and lizards. And just sipping my morning coffee on the porch, I get to see hornbills, and occasionally even a lizard claiming up a palm, or sea otters splashing water in the stream.
So Langkawi’s WILDLIFE PARK was for a long time not on the top of my priority list. A mistake – as it turns out! When I finally visited this beautiful place, I couldn’t get myself to leave and nearly missed my next appointment scheduled four hours later! But let me start from the beginning on…
Expecting the typical ZOO experience with signage prohibiting visitors from feeding the animals, I am amazed to learn upon my arrival that I can purchase against some change tiny paper bags with various nuts, seeds, dry fish and slices of fruit. Noticing my surprise, Redzuan, my guide, proudly smiles, explaining with excitement that the WILDLIFE PARK is all about truly experiencing the animal world – so interaction is a key!
And just as we enter the first section of the Wildlife Park, I get an opportunity to experience first-hand what he meant. Holding between my thumb and index finger a peanut, I immediately get the attention of a beautiful large bird with blue wings and bright yellow belly. Sitting freely on a branch, he ogles me for a second, before walking towards my hand. His black pecker looks quite sharp so I am praying that he is a vegetarian. But he takes the nut very gently, skillfully peeling off the outer transparent layer prior to indulging in his favorite snack. Next to him are Fronted Chestnut Macaw and a White Umbrella Cockatoo with unbelievably blue eyes. All tame – impatiently waiting for their turn to be spoiled.
At the corner is a spacious cage with a mouse deer, a species widespread in Asia from the oligocene era 34 million years ago! And opposite is a family of white raccoons. The small signage next to the feeding hole indicates their dietary preference, and so I reach into one of the paper bags, and take a piece of an apple. Holding back, the mother lets me feed the small one first, shaking her head as her clumsy baby manages to drop the fruit. Looking guiltily, he picks the apple from the floor and… He hurries towards the back to wash it first! I cannot believe my eyes… Just when I am about to praise the excellent hygiene standards and outstanding parenting skills, Redzuan explains that raccoons are very careful, and will also press and squash their food first to make sure that they don’t contain any bones or other sharp objects that could hurt them. If that’s not impressive!
Although a nocturnal animal used to rest during the day and forage at night, the Porcupine in the neighboring cage eyes curiously the paper bags in my hands, and rushes on her short stocky legs towards me as I take out a carrot. As she greedily bites with her rabbit-like teeth into the crunchy delicacy, I get a close-up look at her black and white striped quills. What an interesting feature!
Although nothing but a calloused hair, when threatened, Porcupines certainly know how to make most of their spikes. When faced with a threat, they raise their quills to look larger and more intimidating, and stamping their feet, they frantically shake their body, causing the quills to create a loud hissing rattle that will easily scare off even a leopard or a tiger!
Reading a signage announcing a crocodile, I make unconsciously two steps back: ‘Only those who strongly believe in rebirth should risk going near.’ As the creature was fed only a few hours ago, I probably don’t need to worry. Then again – the way the crocodile looks at me and growls… Who is to say he is not in the mood for a dessert?! Having no intention to find out, I pull on Redzuan’s sleeve, and we head straight to the next cage.
When we enter the ‘Aviary Section’ I cannot believe my eyes! A huge tropical space with lush green bushes, wild orchids, tall jungle trees and waterfalls. Mandarin ducks are swimming in an idyllic pond, peacocks stroll around, flaunting their magnificent feathers, and in the canopy above my head are countless bird species, flying around and singing as if they were in free nature. It’s such an amazing experience, I spend ages just walking around and taking the beauty in.
Finding a bench to enjoy a little break, I notice in the bushes next to me yellow, green and blue Budgerigars. I sprinkle on my palm some seeds, and only a few moments later, six of the tiny ‘love birds’ are sitting on my hand, tickling me with their tiny beaks. It’s adorable!
As we continue walking, I hear the sound of wings cutting through the air. And as I lift my head I notice a huge white pelican with orange throat pouch flying over the pond towards the waterfall. An amazing view as his wings must span more than 2 meters!
Finally, we reach a pond with flamingos – one of my very favorites. Standing gracefully on their long legs, their feathers shimmer in a startling shade of pink, reminding me of ballerinas.
Heading towards the third section in the outdoors, I feel a pat on my back, and before I know what is happening, I have a huge snake around my neck. A Python. I bet the guys around are waiting for some girly screaming?. But figuring that the insurance policy cannot be high enough to cover daily casualties, I am pretty relaxed, admiring the beautiful pattern, and feeling the skin. It’s smooth and slightly cool. An unusual sensation.
Having still some apples left over, I plan to feed a monkey. Reading my mind, the little creature does not wait until I put the apple-piece through the feeding hole. Sticking his tiny hands through the grids, he grabs the apple and… I originally think that he wants to play with my hand, but it turns out that he is after my silver ring. Well – he has an excellent taste! What can I say…
Finally reaching the outdoors, we see ostriches, and there is a pond with Arapaima Gigas, the largest fish I have ever seen. The kids who were all over the place suddenly disappear, and when I look around, I discover them all in a section with tiny rabbits. Caressing their silky fur, and laughing with joy. It’s such an adorable view!
Just before leaving, I get to feed a baby reindeer! I gently touch his hairy antlers; look into his cute brown eyes, and cannot help but think of Santa. Recalling all the wonderful moments of the last few hours, it feels as if I spent the afternoon unwrapping beautiful presents…
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