City Critters – Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo

Revisiting Artis Zoo is always a lovely experience, where one can meet many beautiful creatures who live their lives in an architecturally stunning place…

Whenever we find ourselves in Amsterdam, we cannot resist revisiting Artis Zoo. Artis Zoo is probably my favourite city zoo. I like it for a few reasons. It’s accessible, for one, easily reached by tram from Amsterdam’s Central Station, and is located in a lovely neighbourhood. A long morning touring the zoo followed by a late lunch at De Plaantage really does make for a great day out in the Dutch capital.

Jaguars, just like all the big cats, spend quite some time grooming themselves

Jaguars – a Star is Born!

The zoo has gotten better and better over the years as its management slowly redesigned and rebuilt many of the habitats inside it. These days, the star attraction of Artis is the jaguar. With the big cat’s enclosure located right in the middle of the park, visitors cannot help but be drawn to it. The architecture is quite spectacular, and allows for a viewing of the jaguars that is unprecedented. Here, the animals have enough space and foilage to behave quite naturally, as they would in the wild. At the same time, the design gives visitors plenty of opportunity to really view the animals up close. It’s a brilliant piece of architecture.

Here you can see the most powerful jaws in the entire cat kingdom in action – a jaguar’s bite is twice as strong as that of a tiger

Wolves – the Second Litter

The wolves also have an updated enclosure. You can always tell when an enclosure was designed in contemporary times – the animals in them usually have more space and a lot more privacy. In Artis Zoo, it definitely feels like the animals come first.

Mother wolf is taking her well deserved break in her favourite shady spot

The wolf enclosure has lots of hiding space, which I suppose makes it somewhat difficult for visitors to capture the perfect photograph. But, I think the increase in privacy has resulted in happier wolves. Maybe that’s why this pack of wolves have been so prolific in making pups! We now have caught sight of not one, but two litters over the years that we’ve returned to the zoo. It takes patience, for sure, to catch sight of the pups – we had to wait around for quite some time, almost giving up in the end, only to get lucky towards sundown.

Once the wolf pups leave their den, their appetite is truly ferocious

I think the adorable sight of a sturdy little pup feeding on his mother’s milk is truly a sight well worth waiting for. They are so cute and fluffy. It’s a rare opportunity to catch them while they are still nursing, for wolf pups grow up fast. In one year, they will almost reach the size of their mother.

These two adorable wolf pups are playing hide and seek in the grass covered part of their enclosure – the grass is really not that high, so you can imagine how small they actually are

Cute Little Creatures

Apart from the star attractions of the zoo, there are plenty of other beautiful creatures to behold. I’ve always felt we’ve had good luck here, with sighting the animals. The enclosures are well designed to afford both privacy to the critters when they need it and a good place to view the animals when they don’t mind a bit of attention. Also, perhaps, when we’ve gone – always spring or autumn, the weather has always been lovely and cool, which means the creatures are less likely to hide in the shade.

The fennec fox lives in the deserts and their large ears serve a dual purpose – one is, of course, hearing, but they are also utilised to dissipate heat

I think these days, zoos attract visitors not only with the big canivores, but also with the little, cute creatures. Artis Zoo has all of these – the marmoset, the otter, the squirrel monkey, the fennec fox and the prairie dog. All these creatures we caught sight easily of. I guess in the wild they would be difficult to spot – but here in the zoo, they are so used to the presence of humans that they don’t feel threatened and often come out in plain view for the camera. Sometimes, the braver ones will let curiousity take over them and come really close. I find these moments quite surreal, when faced with a wild animal looking up at me with intelligent eyes and a curious gaze.

This pack of wild dogs are lazing in the late afternoon sun – their fur pattern matching perfectly that of the shadows on the ground

The thing I really love about going to Artis is that here I feel the animals seem to be confortable and have enough space. This allows them to behave naturally- because of this, I am reminded of how just like them we are. Especially the creatures that live in family groups like the wild dogs and the otters. You can see how their young are taken care of, how they engage in play while the adults watch over in a relaxed manner, and also how they share food and groom themselves.

The pigmy marmosets are incredibly cute and inquisitive, and oh so tiny

We’ve been to Artist quite a number of times already, but I can’t wait for the next time I’m in Amsterdam to go right back to meet all those beautiful creatures once more. I enjoy the connection it gives me to the beautiful creatures within it and also the entire experience of being in such a beautiful zoo.

This prairie dog mother is taking care of its young one – unsupervised, they are way too “adventurous” and would wander off away from their den in no time at all

Here are all the photographs from Artis: