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An Okinawan Wildlife Safari

By: Wendy Hively

Date Posted: 2000-09-15

Do you need to soothe the savage beasts in your household? Then a trip to the Okinawa Island Park and Children’s Land is just what you need. The park boasts acres of botanical gardens, an amusement park, petting zoo and an impressive collection of wild animals.

The highlight of the Children’s Park is most definitely the zoo animals. They are scattered throughout the park in outdoor caged areas and indoor tanks. Affixed to each cage is a sign written in both Japanese kanji and English that explains the scientific and common names of each animal, their habitat and food preferences. Small buildings house tanks that hold a variety of animals such as fish, snakes and lizards. You can see several species of habu snakes which are indigenous to Okinawa and a few very large pythons. In the outdoor ponds, you can catch a glimpse of the alligators, crocodiles and turtles.

The large animals are quite impressive and well cared for. The collection of monkeys includes the more common chimpanzee and exotic species such as the spider monkey, lemur, squirrel monkey and mandrill with its bright red and blue muzzle. Representatives from the large cat family include a lion, tiger, jaguar and a snow leopard. Among some of the more typical zoo animals are an elephant, rhinoceros, two species of bears and three very graceful giraffes. The large animals should be approached with caution. You can stand very close to the cages and some of the animals may approach the bars and throw objects at onlookers.

As you stroll through the steep hills of the park, be sure to look around at the multitude of plants, trees and flowers scattered throughout. Lining the pathways around the park are beautiful flowers of every shape and color including some exotic birds of paradise. There are many opportunities for photographs including a small stone bridge resting over a pond with lily pads and hedges that have been cut in the shape of letters that read “Welcome Okinawa”. Don’t forget to bring some bug spray. The mosquitoes can be very fierce in some areas.

The petting zoo provides a fantastic opportunity for children to get acquainted with some furry friends. There is a small pen where children and adults can hold and pet guinea pigs and rabbits. A fenced area holds giant turtles that can be viewed from a distance, but not touched. For Y100, you can buy a small box of food pellets to feed to the goats. They are very friendly and eager to eat right from your hand. They must know what is inside the boxes, because they get very anxious as you approach with a box of food. At the exit to the petting area are faucets and bars of soap where children should wash their hands after handling the animals. Connected to the petting zoo is a bridge that spans a pond where you can view the aquatic life. Swimming in the pond are huge koi fish, ducks, swans and one very beautiful flamingo.

The park is open from 9:00 to 4:30 on weekdays (closed on Tuesday) and 9:00 to 5:30 on the weekend. Admission to the park is Y900 for adults, Y300 for junior high and high school students and Y200 for children age 4 through junior high. Children under four years of age are free. The small amusement park area offers a few rides including a carousel and a small track with cars. The cost of the rides is not included with admission to the park. Tickets must be purchased separately and the cost for each ride ranges from Y200 to Y500.

To get to the park from Kadena Air Base, drive south on Route 58. Turn left onto Route 130 and continue until you reach Route 330. Bear left onto Route 330. As you approach Awase Golf Course, look for the sign for Route 22. Turn right at the stoplight onto Route 22. At the second stoplight on Route 22, turn left. Proceed approximately one mile until you see the zoo on the right hand side of the road. A small statue of a giraffe graces the entrance to the parking lot.

A day at the Okinawa Island Park and Children’s Land promises to be an enjoyable experience for children of all ages. The variety of animals and habitats in which they live may not be as spectacular as what you are used to back home, but you may find some very interesting animals that you have never before had the opportunity to see.

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