By Thea Easterby
It was definitely love at first sight. The moment I walked into the Berlin Zoo and laid eyes on my first giant panda, I was in love.
Luckily my timing was perfect. For Bao Bao, it was feeding time. After snacking on an apple, it was onto the main course – a pile of tasty bamboo. For me watching this beautiful creature was pure joy. Sitting on his butt, Bao Bao used his ample belly as a table of sorts, picking up dropped pieces of bamboo from his stomach as he enjoyed his meal. If you get the opportunity to watch a panda eating up close, pay particular attention to his ears. They take on a life of their own, pulling towards each other across the panda’s head as he chews.
One of the zoo’s main attractions is Knut, a three year old polar bear who was born and raised at the zoo. Though Knut is no longer a fluffy white cub he is still quite the celebrity. In his enclosure, Knut stands up to scratch his back against a tree and cameras click wildly; you can hear an audible ‘awh’ from the crowd.
For me another highlight occurred at the gorilla enclosure. Seeing a young girl’s face light up, I followed her gaze to see what had caught her attention. A regal-looking male silverback was climbing out of the moat encircling his enclosure.
When they fed the lions, they bought them inside (I assumed to keep the male separate from the lion cubs during feeding). The inside cages allowed us to get an incredibly close view of the animals. From behind the safety rail, it felt like if you had really long arms (and you were really stupid) you could lean across and touch the lions.
The zoo is spread over 35 hectares of land so be prepared to do some walking. Grab a map and a list of feeding times when the animals are most active and plan your adventure.
As for Bao Bao, eventually after four trips back to his enclosure, I managed to say goodbye and drag myself out of the zoo.
For further information about the Berlin Zoo, please visit http://www.zoo-berlin.de/en.html