Oct 6, 2015

Hokkaido: Asahiyama Zoo, The Northernmost & The Most Innovative Zoo in Japan

Source: http://good-hokkaido.info/en/asahiyama-zoo/
At first, I didn't set any high expectation to a trip to the zoo. My mind has told me, this could be just like a cliche sightseeing. To witness displayed animals as caged objects, not living beings much like an art museum.

Until I saw penguins walked in front of my eyes, experienced being close to polar bear as their prey, intrigued by "flying" (swimming) penguin gorgeously above head, and startled to see a snow leopard passing above my head. The concept of "behavioral enrichment" of Asahiyama Zoo core's philosophy had forced me to pull my own words.

Awalnya aku tidak menaruh ekspektasi tinggi pada wisata ke kebun binatang ini. Pikiranku berkata, ini bakal jadi tamasya yang klise. Menyaksikan hewan-hewan yang ditampilkan terkurung di kandang, bukan sebagai makhluk yang "hidup", itu sama saja seperti museum seni.

Hingga aku melihat sendiri para penguin berjalan di depan mataku, merasakan berada dekat dengan beruang kutub seperti mangsanya, terpesona oleh penguin "terbang" (berenang) dengan cantik di atas kepala, dan terkejut melihat macan tutul salju melintas di atas kepalaku. Inti konsep dari filosofi "behavioral enrichment" Kebun Binatang Asahiyama telah memaksa untuk menarik kembali kata-kataku sendiri.

Asahiyama Zoo's entrance gate
(©Reinhard Andersen)
As the second largest city in Hokkaido, Asahikawa is not known as main tourists destination. But it gains its fame from the attraction of Asahiyama Zoo, is the most innovative, the northernmost, and the coldest zoo in Japan.

The place also became really popular recently. Crowds come from as far away as Tokyo, South Korea, and China. Then winter is the best time for the tourists to visit this zoo. The reason is none other than to watch march of penguin walk show.

We walked through the broad paving walk path that covered by snow to every corner. 
"Come on, guys! The show is about to begin!" Yoshie-san told as she guided us to the location.

Sebagai kota terbesar kedua di Hokkaido, Asahikawa sebenarnya bukanlah destinasi utama para turis. Namun ia mendapatkan ketenaran lewat atraksinya Asahiyama Zoo, yaitu kebun binatang paling inovatif, paling di utara, dan paling dingin di Jepang.

Destinasi ini juga semakin populer belakangan ini. Para pengunjung berdatangan dari jauh seperti Tokyo, Korea Selatan, dan China. Lalu musim dingin adalah waktu terbaik bagi turis untuk berkunjung ke mari. Alasannya tak lain lagi adalah untuk menonton pertunjukan penguin berjalan.

Kami berjalan melalui jalur luas yang diselimuti salju di segala penjuru.
"Ayo, semuanya! Acaranya udah mau mulai, nih!" Yoshie-san memberi tahu kami selagi ia memandu kami ke lokasi.

A broad white walk path
Group of Chinese tourists already made a beeline there to wait for something interesting. I also had tagged my own spots and already prepared with the camera. In just 5 minutes waiting, the main stars had arrived from distance. 

Tourists started to smile cheerfully enthralled by march of penguins were swaying walk cutely. Teens snapped some pictures, small kids often shouted and jumped in joyfully, and parents kept their kids from causing mischief.

Somehow, one of penguin got out of group and approached me. I squatted since it triggered my interest to touch it. As Indonesian, of course I was really crazy about it. How often we can see the penguins?
Moreover, they only about a meter from me!

Damn, the zookeeper forbade my intention that could wipe my curiosity away. Did I look bad? hehehe...

Anyway, there are red borders at the right side & left side of penguins' track. So, the tourists can't get close to them. The finish line was just ahead, I ran passed them to capture better picture from the front.

There's also an aquarium tunnel where visitors could see some penguins "flying" over their head. That's truly gorgeous!

Grup turis asal China sudah mengantri di lokasi untuk menanti sesuatu yang menarik. Aku pun juga sudah mengambil posisi yang "enak" dan siap dengan kamera. Setelah penantian 5 menit, bintang utama mulai terlihat dari kejauhan. 

Para turis tersenyum dengan riang terpesona oleh parade penguin yang berjalan melenggak-lenggok dengan imutnya. Anak-anak muda "menjepret" beberapa gambar, anak-anak kecil pun sering berteriak dan melompat-lompat dengan gembira, dan para orang tua terus menjaga anak-anaknya agar tak berulah nakal.

Entah bagaimana, salah satu penguin keluar dari kawanan dan menghampiriku. Aku pun berjongkok karena terlanjur kepincut untuk menyentuhnya. Sebagai orang Indonesia, tentu saja aku benar-benar kegirangan setengah mati akan hal ini. Memangnya seberapa sering sih kita bisa lihat penguin? 
Apalagi jaraknya cuma semeter pula!

Sialnya, seorang petugas melarang niatku yang bisa menghapus rasa penasaranku. Emang muka gw kriminal kali, ya? hehehe...

Bagaimanapun juga, ada garis merah tanda batas di kiri-kanan jalur penguinnya. Jadi, para turis tidak bisa mendekati mereka. Garis finish sudah terlihat di depan, aku pun berlari melewati kawanan penguin demi mendapat gambar yang lebih bagus dari depan.

Ada pula terowongan aquarium di mana pengunjung dapat melihat penguin-penguin "terbang" di atas kepala. Benar-benar indah!

Look how adorable they are!!!

They're flying!!!

Then we moved to another section where I could see some (lesser pandas) red pandas were running, climbing, and crossing the bridge. Their house has a climbing tower and connected to the other house next to it via a small hanging bridge. One of them seen crossing the bridge above my head.

As I told before, as the most innovative zoo in Japan, Asahiyama simply lets tourists watch as animals go about their ordinary business that seems to resemble their habit naturally.

Lalu kami beranjak ke bagian lain di mana aku dapat melihat beberapa (lesser panda) red panda sedang berlari, memanjat, dan menyeberangi jembatan. Rumah mereka memiliki menara panjat dan terhubung dengan rumah lain di dekatnya lewat sebuah jembatan gantung kecil. Seekor red panda terlihat menyeberangi jembatan di atas kepalaku.

Sebelumnya sudah ku jelaskan, sebagai kebun binatang paling inovatif di Jepang, Asahiyama memungkinkan pengunjungnya untuk dapat melihat hewan-hewan melakukan aktivitasnya sehari-hari yang nampaknya menyerupai kebiasaan alami mereka.

"I'm the king of the world!"

"Hi, tourists!"

Who would have thought if this largely famous zoo in these days, had been rumored fall into bankruptcy 20 years ago? Visitor numbers dwindled and barely had enough money to feed the animals. 

The zoo director in charged, Gen Bando had no intention to change what animals could be seen in the zoo, he wanted to show the same animals in different way. 

"We didn't want to simply increase the number of visitors. We also wanted to stay true to our principles. We wanted people to come to our zoo and see the splendor of life," Bando said.
To gather ideas, he visited other zoos as well as variety of museums.

Asahiyama Zoo adopted the approach of allowing guests to see the animals engaging in their natural behavior, rather than using exhibits or shows.  

That's not quite as easy as it sounds according to him.

"A penguin doesn't say to itself, 'I think I'll go for a swim today.' If they don't need to swim, they stop swimming. It's a question of how to awaken those sleeping abilities by creating an environment where they will naturally happen," said Bando.

Asahiyama's behavioral-based exhibits concept combines both the design of the enclosures (for example, installing hammocks, logs or climbing structures) and the methods the keepers use when caring for the animals (such as hiding food around their living spaces).

Siapa yang mengira jika kebun binatang yang sangat terkenal belakangan ini pernah dikabarkan akan jatuh bangkrut 15 tahun yang lalu? Jumlah pengunjung merosot dan nyaris tak punya biaya untuk memberi makan hewan-hewannya.

Direktur kebun binatang yang bertanggung jawab, Gen Bando sama sekali tak berniat untuk mengganti jenis hewan apa yang dapat dijumpai di kebun binatang, namun ia ingin menunjukan hewan-hewan yang sama dengan cara yang berbeda. 

"Kami tidak ingin hanya meningkatkan jumlah pengunjung semata. Kami pun juga ingin tetap konsisten pada prinsip kami. Kami ingin orang-orang datang ke kebun binatang kami dan melihat arti dari indahnya kehidupan alam," kata Bando.
Demi mendapatkan ide, beliau mengunjungi kebun-kebun binatang lain, serta juga berbagai macam museum. 

Asahiyama Zoo mengadopsi pendekatan yang memungkinkan para pengunjung untuk dapat melihat para hewan melakukan perilaku alami mereka, ketimbang hanya menjadikan hewan sebagai objek tontonan/pertunjukan belaka.

Hal itu tidak semudah seperti yang didengar menurutnya.

"Penguin tidak mungkin bilang pada dirinya sendiri, 'Hari ini aku mau berenang, ah....' Jika mereka emang tidak ingin berenang, ya mereka tidak akan melakukan hal demikian. Inilah pertanyaan bagaimana caranya membangkitkan naluri bawah sadar mereka itu dengan menciptakan suatu lingkungan di mana mereka dapat beraktivitas menurut instingnya secara alami," terang Bando.

Konsep "pameran" berbasis perilaku dari Asahiyama menggabungkan kedua hal, dari design rumah hewan (contohnya, memasang hammock, struktur untuk memanjat) dan metode para pengurus yang digunakan saat merawat hewan-hewannya (seperti menyembunyikan makanan di sekitar rumah mereka).

Foodie time!

Seals' house features deep pools, outside areas and multiple viewing rooms.
The heart is the transparent vertical tube that let the seals say hi to the visitors.


Zoo staffs built a unique house for snow leopard.
Visitors could walk under the sleeping leopard. People no longer thought it was boring,
because it allows people to observe the natural animals' behavior.


Gen Bando, Director of Asahiyama Zoo
and Board Member at Japanese-Malay NGO Borneo Conservation.

Suddenly, a staff informed the visitors via microphone. The sound could be heard throughout the zoo, but I didn't know what would happen since it in Japanese. So I just followed the wave that went inside the building. 

Crowds already packed the interior, the seats capacity was already unavailable. Some of visitors chose to stand in the back row, and I still kept on searching an empty space next to the acrylic windows in the front row. Yeah, I didn't care about the children!

A sudden big plunge caused a splash in that blue tank. A grand appearance of the polar bear created an awe from the tourists. We watched the bear was swimming gracefully and playing with its blue barrel. Children often frightened when the bear approached them just centimeters away on the other side of the windows.

I pressed my camera's shutter button frequently. Dozens of pictures of it I got, but some of them were not good enough. It's obvious, the essential key to capture animals in pictures is about the right moment.

Tiba-tiba, petugas memberikan sebuah informasi pada para pengunjung via microphone. Suaranya dapat terdengar di seluruh kebun binatang, namun aku tetap tak mengerti apa yang akan terjadi karena dalam bahasa Jepang. Jadi aku pun hanya mengikuti arus para pengunjung yang memasuki sebuah gedung.

Kerumunan turis telah memadati interior, kapasitas tribun sudah pada penuh. Beberapa pengunjung memilih berdiri di barisan belakang, dan aku tetap mencari lahan kosong yang dekat dengan jendela akrilik di barisan depan. Yeah, aku tak peduli dengan anak-anak!

Sebuah cemplungan besar yang mendadak menyebabkan cipratan di dalam kolam biru itu. Penampilan megah dari seekor beruang kutub menciptakan kekaguman dari para turis. Kami menyaksikan beruang itu berenang dengan anggun dan bermain-main dengan tong birunya. Bocah-bocah seringkali ketakutan saat beruang itu menghampiri mereka yang berjarak hanya beberapa sentimeter dari sisi sebelah jendela.

Aku menekan tombol shutter kamera berulang kali. Puluhan foto beruang kutub aku dapatkan, namun sebagian besarnya terlihat tidak cukup bagus. Sudah jelas, kunci utama dalam memfoto hewan adalah momen yang tepat.

Ferocious yet Fabulous
The polar bears' house features another interesting stuff. Curiosity let tourists wanted to join the queue which would lead them to a narrow gap. The gap could contain 2 people at once with an acrylic dome at the top. From here, I could see the polar bears from below, through the perspective of their prey, seals.

According to Good! Hokkaido! website, there were 4 polar bears back then in 2014. One of them named Ivan who was born at the zoo in Russia, also belongs to an increasingly threatened species due to global warming. That means they need humans' hands (pressure) to produce offspring. 

Asahiyama succeeded at the notoriously difficult task of captive polar bear breeding back in 1976, becoming the first zoo in Japan to do so. But when Ivan was paired with 16-year-old Lulu in 2009, matters did not proceed smoothly.

Rumah beruang kutub memiliki fitur lainnya yang menarik. Rasa penasaran membuat para turis ingin bergabung dalam antrian yang akan membawa mereka ke dalam sebuah celah sempit. Celah ini dapat menampung 2 orang sekaligus dengan kubah akrilik di atasnya. Dari sini, aku bisa melihat beruang kutub dari bawah, melalui perspektif mangsa mereka, anjing laut.

Menurut website Good! Hokkaido!, ada 4 beruang kutub pada 2014 lalu. Salah satunya bernama Ivan yang lahir di kebun binatang di Russia, juga spesies yang semakin terancam kepunahannya karena pemanasan global. Artinya mereka semakin butuh pertolongan (tekanan) dari manusia untuk menghasilkan keturunan.

Asahiyama pernah sukses dalam menangani pengembang biakan beruang kutub di dalam penangkaran yang terkenal akan sulitnya hal tersebut di tahun 1976, dan menjadi kebun binatang pertama di Jepang yang berhasil melakukannya. Namun ketika  Ivan dipasangkan dengan Lulu (16 tahun) pada 2009, usaha itu nampaknya tidak berjalan dengan mulus.

Ivan or Lulu?
As you all know, polar bear is an individual creature. This thing can be easily identified when you watch every documentary film about it on the TV. The male often seen hunting alone and there is no group around him.

Tomohiro Sahashi, the caretaker in the zoo did some research about the polar bear mating in the wild.
"In nature, they are not all lovey-dovey," he said. Wild pairs come together only for a period of about one week a year, and though the males seek a mate every year, the females only breed every 3 years.

Ivan and Lulu had been living in the same house in long term. Sahashi decided to separate them, then reunite them temporarily to approximate what might happen in nature. It worked.
"Ivan acted totally different," he said. Soon the pair was observed mating, although Lulu did not become pregnant, and Ivan has been paired with a different mate.

Seperti yang kalian ketahui, beruang kutub adalah makhluk individual. Hal ini dapat dengan mudah diidentifikasi ketika kalian nonton setiap film dokumenter tentang beruang kutub di TV. Jantan seringkali terlihat berburu sendirian tanpa ada kawanan beruang lainnya di sekitar.

Tomohiro Sahashi, pengurus hewan di kebun binatang melakukan berbagai riset perihal perkawinan beruang kutub di alam liar.
"Di alam liar, mereka bukanlah pasangan mesra yang selalu bersama," katanya. Pasangan liar bertemu bersama hanya dalam jangka waktu sekitar seminggu dalam setahun, dan meski begitu jantan mencari pasangan setiap tahun, namun betina hanya beranak setiap 3 tahun sekali.

Ivan dan Lulu telah hidup bersama di rumah dalam waktu yang lama. Sahashi memutuskan untuk memisahkan mereka, lalu menyatukan mereka kembali sementara untuk memperkirakan apa yang mungkin terjadi seperti di alam liar. Ternyata manjur.
"Ivan bertingkah tidak seperti biasanya," kata dia. Tidak berapa lama kedua pasangan itu menunjukan perilaku kawin, meski Lulu tidak hamil, dan Ivan pun akhirnya dipasangkan dengan betina lainnya.

Male polar bears are often seen alone while hunting in the wild

It was already noon. The sun heat had no power here since the clouds had poured down the snowfall. This was my first experience to feel the chill with such pleasure. Even though it sounds childish, but we picked a snowball fights there. This is how we enjoyed the trip to the max.

I thought a trip to the zoo will be just a mere childish trip at first. But Asahiyama Zoo had successfully brought me to a whole new perspective about the animal world. I got the ideas and inspirations from the lecture of the need for humans to re-evaluate their relationship with animals.

The concept of behavioral-based exhibits will later be emulated in every zoo across Japan. In future, I hope there will be more zoos in the world which adopted the same philosophy, especially in my country Indonesia.

I want people to think about the environment where penguins and polar bears live in the wild. Think about what global warming is doing to them and give the solution. Imagine, what will happen to the penguins and polar bears if there is no snow in their world?

Siang pun menjelang. Panas matahari tak punya kuasa di sini karena awan telah menumpahkan hujan saljunya. Ini adalah pengalaman pertamaku untuk merasakan dingin dengan perasaan yang begitu gembira. Meskipun terdengar kekanak-kanakan, kami malah bermain perang bola salju di sana. Inilah cara kami menikmati serunya trip kali ini dengan sepenuhnya.

Awalnya ku pikir wisata ke kebun binatang hanyalah sekadar wisata kanak-kanak belaka. Namun Asahiyama Zoo telah sukses membawaku ke dalam sebuah perspektif baru tentang dunia fauna. Aku mendapatkan banyak ide dan inspirasi dari pelajaran betapa pentingnya umat manusia untuk membina ulang hubungan mereka dengan hewan.

Konsep dari pameran berbasis perilaku ini nantinya akan ditiru oleh setiap kebun binatang di seluruh Jepang. Di masa depan nanti, aku berharap akan ada lebih banyak kebun binatang di dunia yang mengadopsi filosofi serupa, khususnya di negaraku Indonesia.

Aku ingin orang-orang untuk lebih memikirkan akan lingkungan di mana penguin dan beruang kutub hidup di alamnya. Memikirkan tentang pemanasan global yang berakibat pada kehidupan mereka dan memberikan solusinya. Bayangkan, apa yang akan terjadi pada para penguin dan beruang kutub jika tidak ada salju di habitat alami mereka?

Chinese tourists enjoying the snowfall

More about Asahiyama Zoo:
http://good-hokkaido.info/en/asahiyama-zoo/

Asahiyama Zoo's official website:
http://www5.city.asahikawa.hokkaido.jp/asahiyamazoo/ 


Another stories in Hokkaido:
- Mission From Japan: WakuWaku Reporter 2015 (Hokkaido)
Hokkaido: Asahiyama Zoo, The Northernmost & The Most Innovative Zoo in Japan
Hokkaido: See How Japan Introduces Its Freezing World
- Hokkaido: The Famous Small Station of the North
- Hokkaido: Cruising the Sea of Okhotsk on the Icebreaker Ship
- [Road Less Traveled] Hokkaido: Soup of Freedom and the Prison Break of Japan 
[Road Less Traveled] Hokkaido: Cute Little Monster and Drift Ice from Abashiri
- [Road Less Traveled]: Hokkaido Everything All White in Kushiro
- [VIDEO] Hokkaido Trip: Let's Report Japan!!

Photos of Hokkaido:
Hokkaido album on my Flickr

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Asahiyama Zoo video
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwFHBcFNDU0

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Hokkaido Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLJPpJoEHQA

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Hokkaido well-known for its vast farmland and stunning nature landscape. An island which is not only famous for skiing, but it has many special attractions that can be enjoyed in every seasons. I believe... everybody will be enchanted by Hokkaido's charm after recognize how amazing this island is.

This website introduces natures, hot springs, foods particularly to have a foreigner and people lived in outside of Hokkaido recognize that Hokkaido has surprise and splendor in the concept of "Nature, Onsen and Tasty" Why did I intend to do something like that? If you are interested, please do have a look.

Good! Hokkaido! Homepage

"It's not just about the destination, but the journey"

(January 2015)

21 comments:

  1. Interesting article about this zoo in Hokkaido. It sounds excellent, and I hope I can visit one day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Cathy.
      Sure, this zoo isn't just an ordinary zoo like the others.
      A worth to visit!

      Delete
    2. Absolutely! Additionally, it's the one of the best attractions for kids and family tour.

      Delete
  2. keren bener idenya ....
    apakah supaya kebun2 binatang di indonesia seperti begini pengelolaannya ... kita harus kirim para anggota dewan yang terhormat untuk studi banding kesana .....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Halo bersapedahan.
      Kalo di Indo saya kurang tau, soalnya uda lama juga ngga ke Ragunan. Hehhehe...

      Tapi sepertinya uda ada cukup interaksi antara hewan n manusia. Misal: Kita bisa kasi makan hewan secara langsung di Taman Safari.

      Yg harus dikembangkan lagi adalah bentuk n fasilitas rumah2 hewannya aja.

      Delete
  3. i love japan zoo all type of Animals at one place together.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  5. Great article + photos...Japan and Indonesia is one of my favourite countires...I'm your neighbour from Mabul Island in Borneo, Malaysia :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Maya.
      My pleasure and gratitude to hear that you like Indonesia.

      I've been to Sebatik island, but I failed to cross to Tawau, Malaysia due to not had the check-out stamp from immigration.
      I bit surprise that Mabul Island is not so far from there.

      Delete
  6. Great Article, Never Been to Japan !

    ReplyDelete
  7. I find this article an incredible example of having a deep appreciation for a country and its culture. This article only makes me want to travel even more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Trevor!
      Not just Japan, but we have to remember to concern in every aspects of environment's life and future Earth.

      Delete
  8. What to do before a pregnant woman, it is very important for babies as well as for prospective mothers.
    Turis Paling Menyebalkan

    ReplyDelete

  9. Oh! very nice blog , photograph and information. i highly appreciated and recommendation this travel blog about Indonesia. i like to come there to visit as well as. I like to link my blog about the mysterous things that Mini Tibet in Nepal upper mustang trekking one of the best and cultural Tibet where one can meet culturally, geographically Tibetan people in the territory of Nepal. We manage professional trekking guide who can culturally dealing the issue of mustang.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Amazing blog post. And pictures are really awesome.
    Hotels in Yelagiri

    ReplyDelete
  11. terimakasih seru banget, pengen nih kesana ajakin ya....
    Prima kreasindo

    ReplyDelete
  12. itu musang ama snow leopardnya imut kaliiiii..
    Jadi pengen meluk2..

    ReplyDelete