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Published on June 8, 2018

Bali Zoo visitors and resident elephant. Image courtesy of Dana Sikand

Southeast Asia’s wildlife can be seen without venturing into the local wilderness, if you find yourself within commuting distance of one of these four zoos.

Zoos, when executed well, provide humane sanctuary to animals and a lifeline to survival for endangered species. Most of the zoos mentioned here collaborate with conservation efforts for species like the clouded leopard and the orangutan: your paid visits to these places can help preserve these animals for the foreseeable future.

We asked some bloggers to recommend their favorite zoos in Southeast Asia, and these were their top picks:

Bali Zoo, Indonesia: Family-Friendly Animal Encounters

Breakfast with an orangutan anyone? Perhaps you’d prefer dinner with an elephant? Later in the day, you can get a massage in the on-site spa, or spend a few hot afternoon hours at the waterpark. It’s all possible at the Bali Zoo!

What really sets this zoo apart however is the opportunity to interact with it’s inhabitants. As soon as you enter the zoo, you’re greeted by a herd of deer freely roaming the grounds. For a small fee, you can feed these beauties a healthy snack. Not a deer lover? You can also feed elephants or even lions!

They even have a “Mahout For a Day” program where you can care for an elephant alongside their regular caretakers with bathing and feeding.

The Bali Zoo is small area-wise (great for small kids who hate strollers) but boasts 500+ animal species, many exotic and endangered. The zoo honours it’s commitment to conservation by routinely breeding and releasing endangered species including Bengal tigers, bearcats, Bali myna and silvery gibbons.

Last year, the zoo was awarded the best conservation institution in Indonesia by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia.

– Dana Sikand, Adventures with Children (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram)

Clouded leopard. Image courtesy of Margarita Steinhardt

Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand: Big Cat Sanctuary

The clouded leopard is one of the most beautiful and the most elusive wildcats on Earth. They are so rare that even the scientists studying them rarely see them in the wild.

Luckily, you can see these magnificent cats at Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Thailand. To learn more about these rare felines, the zoo partnered up with a number of international zoos to create the Clouded Leopard Consortium. The consortium’s pioneering breeding program at Khao Kheow houses 40 clouded leopards of different ages, though most of these animals are housed behind the scenes.

Located just 130 km from Bangkok, Khao Kheow makes for a perfect day trip. The zoo is large and divided into a number of themed areas. You can explore the African Savannah, Walk-through Aviary, Cats Complex Park and even a Night Safari after sunset.

Don’t miss the Journey-to-the-Jungle show, where wild animals are encouraged to display their natural behaviours without the presence of any trainers in the arena.

– Margarita Steinhardt, The Wildlife Diaries (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram)

Family meeting the residents at Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. Image courtesy of Tourism Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, Malaysia: Free-Flyin’ Fun

I had heard good things about Kuala Lumpur’s bird park from a few other travellers and that it was the world’s largest “free-flight walk-in aviary”. So when I was thinking of what do to fill in my day’s itinerary after visiting the nearby National Mosque, it felt like a good fit.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from a “free-flight” aviary. I had been to zoos that had birds such as lorikeets or other smaller, cuter birds flying overhead but Kuala Lumpur’s bird park boasted much bigger species. I was very curious about the experience.

In fact, it was far better than I had expected and the bird park was spread out over an area of about 20 acres! Apparently there are 3000 birds in this fully walkable tropical enclosure that you can get up close and personal with.

Being only a few minutes’ bus or taxi ride from the city centre, Kuala Lumpur’s Bird park should only be missed by our most ornithophobic readers!

– Chris Berry, Withabackpack

Singapore Zoo entrance. Image courtesy of Mike Huxley

Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo is one of my favourite places in the world and I always make a beeline for it every time I head back to the city.

Its commitment to ethical wildlife tourism is commendable, as is its contribution to international conservation efforts, but it is hands down just one of the nicest and most relaxing parts of the already spectacular garden city.

Singapore Zoo is not just one of the premier family friendly attractions in Singapore, nor just one of the best zoo’s in the world, but it is also a significant component of the Mandai project too, a project encompassing the zoo, the adjoining Night Safari and River Safari attractions, a relocated and updated Jurong Bird Park and a brand new Rainforest Park that will become one of the biggest eco nature parks in the world, cementing it as not only a world class wildlife tourism attraction, but a beacon of ethical eco tourism.

Fun fact: I proposed to my wife at Singapore Zoo and we went there on Honeymoon too!

– Mike Huxley, Bemused Backpacker (Facebook|Twitter|Google Plus)