Nick and I love animals, and I just have a soft spot for them. So when we found out about the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam, we both wanted to have a visit. Natura Artis Magistra is the zoo’s full name and was founded in 1838 as the first zoo in the Netherlands. Set in a large park in the De Plantage neighborhood, the zoo has an aquarium, a planetarium, a butterfly pavilion, and zoological and geological museums.
We both haven’t been to many zoos, but having most recently gone to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, we didn’t have high expectations. This is because Woodland Park has always been a disappointment. You never get to see many animals. Maybe it’s just our luck, but they don’t have the coolest critters. Artis Royal was quite the opposite. We had such a cool experience there. It was as if the animals were putting on a show for us. The set up of the zoo was nothing like in the states. Docile animals or birds roamed freely on the zoo’s grounds.
At the front entrance where the Monkey Island and the camel stations are located at, monkeys, camels, llamas and donkeys were in close proximity. There were no cages or gates, and we were surprised the animals didn’t escape. We saw donkeys play fight; monkeys sat nonchalantly as people watched them sitting on the roof of their shelter.
Inside the Forest House was quite a show. We got up close with monkeys, lizards and other critters. They were free to roam and scurry among trees and bushes. Bats hung upside down above us, at times flapping their wings.
The butterfly pavilion, we saw flying butterflies flaunt their beautiful colors and unique wing patterns.
Outside, most caged animals were not too far away from where people were standing. If a kid managed to cross the barrier, that child could easily stick his or her arm into the cage and be in trouble. Some of the most ferocious animals were caged almost within an arm’s reach. We witnessed a black jaguar and a golden leopard pacing as though they were agitated. Because of the close views, we saw the jaguar’s stern look, his sturdy build, strong jaws, and imagined we were dead meat if we ever came across one of these in nature.
Then we witnessed some territorial behaviors from wolves and elephants. The wolves were howling as a pack because they felt threatened by the humans in their space. Little did they know the louder they howled the more human attention they received. They kept on howling even though they became tired of it as people watched and kids mimicked their howling.
Our favorite territorial behavior was from a family of elephants. We witnessed them chase out two peacocks, trumpeting in irritation at the birds that dared enter their space. It was hilarious as the birds were feisty and dished back some attitude of their own, cawing at the elephants. The birds never left entirely; they stood outside the area watching when they could get back inside. The baby elephant kept guard, pacing and growling at them as if telling them, “This is our home. Don’t you dare come in here! We’ll stomp you!”
We had a great time with the animals. It was the best zoo we’ve been to. And although I don’t like the idea of the animals being caged up from their natural environment, I take comfort that they are being well cared for and that some of these animals may have been rescued as well. From the looks of it, the animals at Artis Royal seemed active and happy; they seemed to have adapted to their environment.
If you decide to visit, expect a full day there. The price of 19.50 euros per ticket may seem a little steep at first, but there are many fuzzy critters to see—and it’s worth it.