A DEEP and frightful roaring drew us to the direction where Lambert the African lion is caged. It was past 4 p.m. and the continuous roaring signaled that Lambert was hungry.
Several meters away, BooBoo, a female black bear was impatiently climbing on the bars and the roof of his quarters. Near the entrance, Tasha, a female Bengal tiger kept pacing back and forth, baring her fangs. Only Ozzie the male leopard seemed indifferent to the noise around. He doesn’t seem hungry and only got up from his corner after an animal handler sprayed a blast of water on him.
These four exotic animals are the main attractions that joined the Saipan Zoo in As Mahetug in 1996, but very soon, a female leopard will be added.
The animal handler comes carrying a bucket with two chicken quarter legs which he puts on Lambert’s plate after opening two barred gates. Lambert glared at us through the bars with mean eyes. The handler said that Lambert is at his meanest when he is given food because he thinks that we will grab his food.
The animal handler gives BooBoo his meal of fruits and vegetables and hurries off to feed Tasha and Oozie their chicken quarters.
The three cats alone consume beef and one 33-pound case of chicken every day.
At the other cages, all the other animals are making their own brand of noises sending messages to the handlers in their own language that they too, need their food.
Aside from Lambert, Ozzie, BooBoo, and Tasha, there are the monkeys, genet, foxes, and Bobbie the bobcat, kinkajous, parrots, cockatoos, owls, emus, iguanas, coatimundi, turtles, peacocks, fruit bats, deer, goats, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, and more.
Zoo owner Frank and wife Ursula Aldan said that the zoo opened in 1992 when some people started donating birds, and other indigenous animals. The exotic animals came in four years later.
Aldan said that the zoo does not only serve as a display area for animals but students can do their research there.
“The zoo is one place where students can study for instance indigenous animals or endangered species such as the fruit bat and turtles,” Aldan said.
He added that whenever students hold parties or field trips, they invite somebody from the Fish and Wildlife to come and conduct lectures on animal protection and conservation and other relevant issues.
Aldan said that Dr. Edgar Tudor, a veterinarian, regularly comes into the zoo to check on the animals and perform surgery when needed.
Aldan is also urging the community to support the CNMI’s only zoo by donating their extra fruits and vegetables for the animals.
Saipan zoo is planning on a lot of activities for the kids this summer. In partnership with tour operators such as TASI tours and Pacific Development Inc., Saipan zoo will also be entertaining students from other countries to offer hands-on experience in petting and feeding some animals.
The Saipan Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except for national holidays. Local rates are $10 for adults and $5 for children 3 to 12 years old. Children below three years old can come in free. Aldan said that they also offer special discounts and group rates. For more information, please call 670-322-5711 or 5118.
UPDATE (5-13-18): Booboo the bear has long since died.