“The bridge sways ever so slightly as we cross the partially frozen river. My son grasps my hand tightly and my little girl points ahead to the steam rising from the hot pools over the bare treetops. As our feet hit solid ground again, together we make our way up the snow-lined path that leads us up a slight incline toward the faint sound of water bubbling. As we round a corner, we see them in the frosty mist – the snow monkeys! Their fur is tinged with ice crystals and their red faces look serious as they cuddle together in the warmth of their very own hot springs. I’m entranced as a mother snow monkey holds her youngster close and two juveniles playfully chase each other from rock to rock sending chilly water splashing on displeased adults – reminding me so much of my own children at play. Then in the distance, there’s a roar that draws us away from this tranquil wintery place – our curiosity is piqued, my heart begins to race and the children walk a little closer to me.
The trees of the winter forest whisper overhead in the gentle breeze. Snow sparkles on the long brown grass bordering the trail and then ahead of us there they are – the tigers! They lie motionless beneath a snow-covered canopy of interlaced tree branches – they chuff at us and the frosty air forms a cloud in front of their faces. Then the tigers’ gaze breaks away as they hear the sound of Takin snorting and together we watch them race across the frozen slope sending chunks of snow flying from their hooves.
As we travel home, the children are full of questions and talk non-stop about the adventure, making me seriously reflect upon the challenges these magnificent and endangered animals face as they try to survive against the odds.”
The promise of a zoo visit is disarmingly straightforward: the profound thrill of connecting with nature and the animals which share our planet.