Tbilisi Zoo

Last weekend we met up with our friends and their kids to visit the Tbilisi Zoo.  We could not have picked a better day for it, the weather was perfect.

You may recall hearing about the terrible flooding in Tbilisi last summer, and the awful stories about what happened to the zoo.  (WARNING: graphic pictures) Around 300 animals were killed and many were wandering the streets after the flood destroyed many of their enclosures. One of the animals that escaped, Beggi the Hippo, became world famous when she was found wandering the flooded city streets.

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People help a hippopotamus escape from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals have escaped from the zoo in Georgiaís capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to stay inside Sunday. (AP Photo/Tinatin Kiguradze)

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This was our first visit and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We knew it would be quite different from zoos in the U.S. and our expectations were low given that the flood was just over a year ago, but we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw.

We can happily report that Beggi the Hippo seems to be doing well. Her current enclosure leaves a bit to be desired, but there is evidence of progress all over the zoo. They are working on the existing enclosures and also building a brand new zoo at a new location. Zoo experts from the U.S. were recently in town to provide training on animal care and exhibit design.

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We purposefully arrived just before the gates opened which allowed us to walk around pretty much by ourselves for at least an hour. With no crowds, we could let the kids run ahead and scope out the animals first, but we had to stay on guard a bit because many of the enclosures had basic fencing and we didn’t want to lose any little fingers to a hungry lemur or monkey.

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With safety standards and enclosures not quite up to American standards, you can get really close to the big animals. Realllly close. Abby threw a fit when JR stopped her from trying to pet the rhinoceros and his donkey friends.

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In addition to the animals, the zoo had a few small areas with carnival-like rides and attractions.  Tickets were cheap – just 1 Lari each, and most rides cost 1 or 2 Lari. The kids had a great time on the little flying airplanes, the trampoline and the tea cups.

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Our group enjoyed the Tbilisi Zoo and we hope to go again soon!

A highlight of our weekend was the Tennessee Volunteers beating Florida after 11 long years.  Although neither Abby nor I stayed up to watch the game, we made sure she showed her spirit during the day!  Go Vols!

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