Safe and close encounter

Safe and close encounter

Words by Looi Sue-chern

Bottle-feeding koi in a pond with a long stick. Birds pecking seeds on your palms. Petting rabbits the size of a large poodle.

You get to do this at the Langkawi Wildlife Park. Up close and personal is for real; try feeding raccoon, mouse deer and porcupine and watch them eating from your hand!

A highlight to wait for is feeding time for crocodiles. See the crocs lunging up five feet to grab meat with its teeth behind the safety of a strong fence.

The wildlife park is home to 119 species of cute wild and tame mammals like otters, raccoons, white raccoons, civet cats, fennec foxes, mouse deers, monkeys, ostriches, guinea pigs, rabbits, porcupines and donkeys; birds, fish and reptiles.

Many are docile enough to be touched and fed by hand. Bags of snacks containing nuts, vegetables and sunflower seeds cost RM6 each.

Hold out a handful of seeds on your palms in the bird enclosure and watch with wonders when a whole flock of budgerigars and colourful parakeets fluttering towards you to feed. Keep still a bit longer and the little birds – budgies for short – will perch on your arm as if you are old friends.

Remember to feed the little mouse deer that likes apples in the same enclosure as the budgies. The mouse deer is an interesting animal most Malaysians will remember from the popular ‘Sang Kancil’ children’s stories. It is also a species that was drawn on ancient cave wall paintings.

Jenday Conures parrots in Brazilian national colours love sunflower seeds, leaving you just the empty shells on your palms. The much larger flamingos will peck from your palms as you stretch out your hands at the edge of their pond.

The park keeps a daily morning and afternoon feeding schedule for its cute raccoons and Jenday Conures (10am and 3pm); pelicans (10am and 4pm), Arapaima (10.30am and 3pm), deer (10.45am and 3.15pm), porcupines (11am and 2.30pm), and hornbills and eagles (11.30am and 4.30pm).

There are also donkey groomings twice a day at 11am and 3.30pm; and crocodile feeding sessions at 11am and 4pm on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Do not leave the park before seeing the pair of adorable fennec foxes with big pointy ears nobody can forget, the velvet monkey with blue scrotums, the cute otters and their young, and the huge rabbits.

According to Park general manager John Teoh, the close encounter with animals is something that makes the Langkawi Wildlife Park special and more memorable, compared to other places, where visitors are not allowed to interact with animals.

“Years ago, we started with only rabbits and the budgerigars. Visitors were very happy. So we carried on and allowed visitors to interact with more birds.

“We brought in pythons and visitors wanted to take pictures with them. We also had crocodiles and allowed people to feed them from a safe distance. Visitors can feed flamingos, ostriches, emus and ducklings by hand.

“The visitors’ favourites are the budgerigars, flamingos and koi fish. The budgies, or love birds, are favourites because of the way they go to visitors to feed from their hands. The flamingos are popular too because they are very elegant-looking birds.

“The koi fish is popular because visitors get to bottle-feed them,” he says. “This feeding method gives visitors a more memorable experience. They can feel the pole shake in their hands as the koi go for the food-filled bottle. You won’t get to feel much by tossing fish pallets into the pond.”

Now that you know what to expect, you should know some useful tips about visiting the park. An important one is be kind and not harm the animals, like stepping on the small birds on the ground. There had been many budgie casualties.

Next is to wash your hands after touching the birds and animals. Wash basins with soaps and hand sanitisers are provided at various locations in the park.

The rest is just to brace yourselves for an overdose of cuteness and fun. The park also has several interesting shopping outlets selling duty-free items, local handicrafts, crystals and pearl jewellery, wax art and other souvenirs.

If your own stomach is growling after feeding the park animals, stop by the Al-Madinah Cafe or the Rabbit Cafe for a bite or two yourself.

Park hours are from 8.30am to 7pm daily. The final entry is at 6pm. Visitors normally need about two hours to tour the park. You can check out the park’s website ahead for information to help you plan your visit.

Tickets are available at discount prices if bought online at langkawi-wildlife-park/. Visitors save RM3 on adult tickets and RM2 on child and senior tickets.

Langkawi Wildlife Park is located on Jalan Ayer Hangat, Kampung Belanga Pecah, about 10 to 15 minutes drive from Kuah. From Pantai Cenang, it takes about 40 minutes by car.

The park is Winner of the 2016 TripAdvisor certificate of Excellence.