The Yangon Zoological Gardens and Parks offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The oldest zoo in Myanmar, established in 1901 in honour of Queen Victoria, boasts rare and endangered animal species as well as rich flora over several sprawling acres.
Many animals were moved to the zoo in the new capital Naypyidaw in 2008, leaving behind numerous empty cages. Grotesque and joyous animal statues scattered throughout the park are juxtaposed against the still, almost listless animals kept in often narrow cages. A heavy sense of sadness, absurdity, and abandonment pervades the park.
Today one can’t help but question the relevance of zoos, not only in Myanmar but everywhere else. Albert Camus’ extract from his Literature Nobel Prize winning speech in 1957 finds strong resonance when we look at the captive animals: I have never been able to renounce the light, the pleasure of being, and the freedom in which I grew up.
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