Going to the Philippines this past February with a 21 month old and a two month old was an eye opener . Andy and I commented numerous times, on how most of the things we did could never be done in the states.
At the Highland Park Zoo (this is one of the photos pictured on the right.) When you first walk in to this cute little zoo, a man comes by with a box and a couple of birds. He puts a bird on your shoulder either a blue Macaw or a big white cockatoo... and (if you request) he'll throw a green tree python with his mouth taped shut, around your neck. You can take as many pictures as you want for free. You can even throw a bird in the bushes and no one gets mad. This poor cockatoo was tossed by my 21 month old, who had never had a bird that large on her arm before. The man, pretty aggressively placed the bird on her arm, and it started to playfully crawl towards her neck. Poor girl, was surprised and afraid and chucked the thing about 6 feet into the bushes. The bird jumped out, looking pretty disheveled, but fine nonetheless. This bird was truly a professional, and my entire family was very apologetic to him. But, in all her toddler wisdom, Myla shouted... "SAW-REE BIRD!!!" and looked pretty disappointed in herself for throwing him, which again reitorates the fact that I know my daughter was born a nice person.
Then, we went to a resort in Bataan where there was a Pawikan (Sea Turtles) Preserve. During breakfast, we heard that the night before, all the sea turtle eggs hatched and we were allowed to go see them! I was expecting a small room where you could look through the glass and view these sea turtles. We walked around the resort in our pajamas and passed a small hut that usually was a place where you could reserve body boards and snorkel gear. There was a large, blue plastic basin in it, and the guy working there said, "here! Baby turtles!" and there they were, about 65 baby sea turtles. They were going to be released into the wild at sundown and they were in the basin so people could look at them. I had never been that close to a sea turtle, much less a baby sea turtle before. Myla got to look and oogle at them and appreciate these little miracles. It was kind of a tear jerker. I mean, I was getting emotional from something that small! We picked a few up and she got to touch them, but we knew that too much handling couldn't possibly be good for the turtles, but what the heck do I know? So we thanked the man and left.
There are other places like in Subic (the old US Army Base) Zoo, where you could feed live chickens to crocodiles. And we did the chincy take a picture with a baby tiger thing. It cost about 5 bucks. You paid a man at the counter and there were two wiry guys with a baby tiger behind a small chain link fence. They bring out a baby bottle feeder, and the guy instructed us (it was just me, Myla & Papa, Emmy would have been a chicken nugget to the baby tiger we are told.) to sit on the bench. "No sudden movements."
"No loud, sudden noises."
This terrified me because Myla is all one, loud, sudden movement.
I asked if we could Myla in the middle, and both guys said, "Nooooooo!"
So, Papa got to hold the baby tiger, who was about the height of a labrador and probably about 1oo pounds already. When a baby tiger walks by you, and you have a 22 pound 20 month old on your lap, you think... oh my god, are we going to be on that "when animals attack" show? This baby tiger's paws were about the size of a saucer, and his head was twice the size of mine. Man, it was cool.
The guys was fumbling with our camera, and the safety guy who was holding the chain of the tiger on Andy's lap, was gesturing to the guy taking the picture, to hurry up because the bottle Andy was holding was running out.
Last picture taken.
Again, I am very much against the exploitation of animals, but none of the zoos WE went to in the Philippines looked like they were mistreating or neglecting the animals at all. In fact, all the zoologists and caretakers seemed very much in love with the animals, and all seemed genuinely excited to have people touch and hold these animals and learn from them in this way. I actually gained an appreciation for the power of a tiger by this 3 minute experience. Again, I would have had to pay an arm and a leg to see one baby sea turtle a Sea World, or get a picture with a baby tiger anywhere. Tigers' fur was coarse but really soft! It was so cool!