In the middle of a large city like Beijing, you wouldn’t expect to have access to wildlife. Not so, in Beijing! You can find a fully stocked zoo, ample pets and supplies at the animal market and even stray wildlife throughout the city. There is enough wildlife to satiate even the most avid animal lover in Beijing.
The Beijing Zoo is an amazing experience, especially for zoo fanatics. If you’re like me, then you visit the zoo in every major city you visit. I’ve seen zoos in multiple continents and in over a dozen countries, the oddest of which was the Ashgabat Zoo, in Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, the Beijing Zoo stands out as quite an experience. First, it has improved a great deal since my first visit there in 2005. Now the exhibits are larger and the signage in English and Chinese. However, the large cat exhibit still makes my stomach churn. Little more than a row of jail cells, the large cats howl and roar (which echoes throughout the room) while children taunt and toss items at them. Still, the zoo is unique. Take a break from the animal viewing by walking along the river and playing with the myriad of stray cats that sneak into the exhibits for free food.
If visiting the zoo isn’t something you are excited about doing, then consider a tour of the New Guanyuan Bird and Fish Market. Here you’ll find all manner of pets for sale. From the appropriate lucky crickets and lucky beetles to exotic fish and trained birds. You’ll find a few dogs and cats in tiny cages, to be sure, but the stranger pets are more sought after. One stall sells pet miniature pigs, another specializes in tarantulas and scorpions. Chinchillas and ferrets are also popular. See how they are bought and sold and how lovingly locals are purchasing them and caring for them.
On any given weekend morning, head to any large park in the city, for example Bei Hai Gongyuan. Here you’ll find locals walking their dogs with more than the normal amount of affection and attention. The dogs are fully clothed (including booties) and trained to respond only to their masters. Meanwhile, bird enthusiasts gather under trees to allow their birds to socialize and sing with other birds. You’ll find people showing off their bird’s latest tricks and some even sing opera with their birds in accompaniment.
For a bit of underwater wildlife, head to the Beijing Aquarium. A beautiful structure full of exotic underwater life, the Beijing Aquarium is a prime example of the progress made in the care of animals in China. What was once a quasi-neglected exhibit now houses a plethora of fish, coral reef and even sharks!
If you are missing wildlife, don’t fret in Beijing. Although it may be a big cement city, there are places you can escape to and be around nature. The same goes for Shanghai, find out how to find nature in China’s largest city!