A couple of weeks ago, we got word that a litter of wolf pups were born in Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo. This was perfect timing for the zoo, I suppose, since Disney’s live action remake of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book was still playing in theatres, featuring a litter of the most realistic and adorable wolf pups. This was not long after BBC released their documentary series, “The Hunt”, which also features a family of wolves raising a litter of pups. So, of course, we had to visit Artis to check out these adorable critters.
Naturally, they were hiding in their den all day. We had near lost all hope at ever catching even a glimpse of them when suddenly, during our last trek past their enclosure, we heard the cutest whining sounds coming from their den. Their mother ran to the entrance, and sure enough, out came three little sturdy wolf pups. There were many other awesome creatures in the zoo, but they really made the trip.
They were boisterous and playful and couldn’t stop harassing their mother for milk. We were also lucky she choose to feed them right in front of us. After feeding, the group went to play in the shade while their mother ate. I think the pups were still too young to eat meat, but nevertheless. they liked licking the carcass their mother was having for dinner.
Wolf pups aside, the zoo itself is lovely. It is spacious and well laid out, with architecturally interesting enclosures. Following the lead of more famous zoos worldwide, Artis is quickly adapting to a natural looking environment, one in which the animals have more space and privacy, where they can feel at home.
Upon entry, we notice a large enclosure still to be completed that was reserved for two jaguars, a male and a female, both part of a larger continent wide breeding programme. We’re excited to see them when they finally arrive. Another architecturally interesting exhibit was the Dutch Polder, a landscape unique to the Netherlands, where various birds, both native and migratory lived. The enclosure was a convincing microcosm of the low-lying wetlands that covers much of the north of the country.
Other cuties on this trip included the red panda, one of our favourite animals. Artis has a pair housed in an enclosure that gives a great view of them amongst reeds of bamboo upon which they regularly munch on. These red pandas were quite active, constantly fidgeting and climbing up and down the trunks and branches of their enclosure. They were two of the most active ones I’ve seen so far – it takes a lot for the red panda to get enough nutrients from its mostly bamboo diet, so they are genetically programmed to chill out and take it easy.
Another amusing critter is the red panda’s closest cousin, the raccoon, or washing bear. So named because it washes its food before eating, although this trait isn’t unique in the least. Many other animals wash their food, like otters, hyenas and wild boars. It wasn’t their feeding time when we arrived though, so these were standing around watching the tourists pass them by. They seemed almost as entertained by us as we were by them.
We especially love the house where all the little critters were kept. Among them was a small family of pigmy marmosets. They were such stunning creatures, with their thick golden fur and long bushy tails. I found it incredible that they were so small; some of these were shorter than the length of a finger! While we were there, there had been a recent birth, and the father could be seen hiding out in the top corner, with his twins clinging on to his back.
Apart from the marmosets, there were many other pint-sized, adorable creatures in this enclosure, including the mouse deer and the smallest primate in the world, the mouse lemur, only found in Madagascar. These creatures evolved to be so small because of the inherent scarcity of food in their natural habitats, which meant a smaller size conferred an advantage towards survival.
From the very small to the very large, Artis Zoo has a huge diversity of animals in spacious, tasteful enclosures that afford the animals enough privacy, allowing them to behave in a natural way. We spent the day touring the entire zoo, yet by the end of it, we still hadn’t seen everything there was to see.
To add to the experience, the award winning museum, Micropia, is right beside it. Micropia seeks to bring, in a tactile way, information about microbes, to its visitors. We enjoyed a sojourn there in the middle of the day, after a good lunch at De Plantage (we highly recommend it, especially their lunchtime tartines), to get away from the worst of the summer heat.
It was an enlightening visit. I especially loved the fascinating photographs of microbes on display and the collection of bio-luminescent organisms in the dark room. Also of particular interest was the large ants nest, where you could see en entire colony of harvester ants go about their tasks.
Here are all the photographs from Artis: