A trip to the zoo ranks high among the favourite outings for most parents with young kids. However, the experience is not the same as watching the wildlife in their natural habitat.
I’d say that the difference between jungle safaris and a zoo is akin to looking at fresh fruits and vegetables at a supermarket as opposed to seeing them grow at a farm. A supermarket might expose them to the variety but it’s something else to learn how a seed is sown, grown, and harvested. Similarly, to watch the wild on their home turf is surely a thrilling and humbling journey.
It is with this intention that Little Passports came into existence, to enable other children as young as 2.5 years to experience Nature and observe the wild in the jungles. Having taken my son on jungle safaris ever since he was an 18-month toddler, I can vouch for the invaluable lessons learned on such trips.
Here are five reasons why jungle safaris are superior to a zoo:
1. The home provides a natural cover
Every life on this planet thrives only in its organic environment. The wide expanse of the jungle provides a safe haven to the wild. The shades of green foliage help the animals camouflage against predators and thus remain safe. There’s enough space for all the species to co-exist and survive.
Now, compare this to the cramped area of a zoo. Can the animals roam about freely or hide behind the tall grass; something that is a part of their natural instinct?
2. The beauty of the food pyramid
In the forest, it’s the survival of the fittest. Kids can observe the lovely interplay of how Nature provides for each and every species: the herbivores feed on grass, the birds feed on insects found on the bodies of such herbivores, the carnivores, in turn, feed on the herbivores. The food chain is beautifully woven in the workings of the jungle. Another interesting observation that can be made is how even the tigers and lions need to hunt for their food. It shows that even the strongest and powerful need to work for their survival and go through failure at times.
A zoo kills this basic instinct of animals by providing food at regular intervals. Shockingly, at times, the animals are not even fed their natural food. For instance, the Pandas are not given Bamboo but man-made Bamboo cakes for easier consumption.
3. You never know what’s in store!
On one of the safaris with my son, we saw a deer kill lying on the jungle path. Even though we didn’t see the kill in action, it fascinated my son to learn about the concept of a prey or a game. He was in awe of the fact that the predator feasts on a kill for days in length.
In a jungle, you never know what you might see, such as a fight, a kill or even mating, whereas in a zoo, you pretty much know that even the extra ordinary might be just sleeping or eating.
4. Patience is a virtue
Animals sightings are not guaranteed in a jungle. Kids learn to respect the fact that they are entering someone’s abode and need to remain quiet, not litter and understand that one can spot the wild only by chance.
Everything is not given on a platter, unlike the zoo. There’s a certain amount of anticipation and excitement as they sight animals among the thick foliage of the jungles.
5. Forget the animals, treasure the forest!
Forests all over the world are getting depleted. These natural lungs of the earth not only provide a habitat for animals but are also essential to the vital functioning of our planet. A lot factors such as the rains, climate, biodiversity, and so on depend on the health of the green covers aka forests. It is essential for kids to learn why and how we need to save the natural reserves.
Having stated these facts, it’s also true that we can’t go on jungle safaris as frequently or introduce kids to animals which are not native to our region if it weren’t for the zoos.
I only hope that I can inspire many more parents to take kids on wildlife safaris. However, if you cannot for some reasons, do not fret, for there is always the local zoo.