Zoo: Jungle Cat World
Location: Orono, Ontario
Description: A behind the scenes tour of the zoo with interactions with 3 animals of your choice (~15mins each).
Animals chosen for our visit: Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, Striped Hyenas, Amur Tiger
Children Friendly (4): Obviously this category is going to be greatly dependant on the personality of your child and the animals you choose. However, overall I did not feel this was necessarily a behind the scenes experience that would be appropriate for children, young children that is. You could cater it to be more child friendly when choosing which animals to be included on your tour. Although, I know when I was a child I’d want to be with the big cats or wolves. Since it is hands on with animals it’s a safety concern with children being too rough or not respecting the animal. As well, some of these animals are large, and while you are with a keeper at all times they can be unpredictable.
Animal Viewing (10): In terms of seeing the animals, you can’t get it any better. In most situations you are inside their exhibit, seeing them face to face. The lemurs climbed all over us, the hyenas untied our shoelaces, and Nadine the tiger lounged on a picnic table for photos with us. If it is close encounters with the animals that you’re looking for, this is the behind the scenes program for you.
Animals Happiness (7): Along the lines of being not necessarily suitable for children, it can potentially be stressful for the animals. The lemurs were happy as could be to have visitors and were quite taken by our feet. One of the hyenas however was quite shy and didn’t seem completely thrilled that we were in its enclosure. Nadine the tiger was in the middle of playtime when it was her turn to show off – I’m sure she would have been more content without the interruption. These animals are used to having guests in interacting with them, and as long as those guests are respectful it shouldn’t be an issue. It’s the guests that decide to push the boundaries or break the rules that can affect the animals happiness the most.
Photography (10): Going hand in hand with the animal viewing is photography. Without those fences between you and the animal, you’re able to get some awesome shots. Also, the keeper was always willing to take photos for us as well.
Price (9): Although it is $100 per person (discounted if you’re younger than 18), it is technically a donation to the Endangered Species Fund of Canada – so the cost is actually going toward a good cause. Also this includes your admission into the zoo and all that comes with that.
Safety (5): Long story short, you’re interacting with unpredictable animals. There are safer options on the list to choose, and I haven’t heard of any issues they have had with the program but the potential is there. For the safety a lot depends on how you respect the animal you’re interacting with but also there are factors that are out of your control. During our visit we were told that it would be one of the last behind the scenes with Nadine due to her size at the time. She was no longer a small cub and her strength was something that would be harder to control. This was one of the interactions that did not take place in the exhibit but rather just outside on a picnic bench. My first thought was that IF something happened and the tiger got away from the keeper – that tiger was then a threat to every other visitor in the zoo and the surrounding area. It was no longer contained. Also, the other guests in the zoo were not being respectful. The keeper was continually having to remind people to remain in certain areas for their safety however many ignored this to get a better photograph or to see how close they could get. Due to factors like these I reduced this score.
VIP Experience (10): In terms of feeling like you’re getting what you paid for this program delivers. It is not something every guest is able to do. You get hands on interactions and some amazing photos.
Overall (7.9): Overall I would recommend this program – but I would advise parents to be cautious if booking with children. Being able to choose which animals you want to interact with is definitely one of the best perks. You can keep going back and see different animals each time! If you’re an animal lover, you will not forget this experience.