動物と触れ合える!「天王寺動物園」で癒やされよう

天王寺動物園は、大阪市立の動物園です。1915年に開園した、日本の数ある動物園の中でも、三番目に古い歴史があります。
天王寺動物園は、大阪市南部の観光エリア、天王寺駅周辺にあります。

詳しくは、天王寺駅の東側に広がる天王寺公園内にあります。この公園内には、天王寺動物園の他、戦国武将真田幸村ゆかりの茶臼山古墳、住友家の庭園であった慶沢園、大阪市立美術館などの名所・施設があります。

天王寺公園は、中心部にあって交通の便がよいことから、大阪市内はもちろんのこと、その周辺からも多くの旅行客がここを訪れます。
また、旅行客が宿泊できるホテルや、食事の場所も近くに数多くあります。

さらに、天王寺公園の近くには、通天閣がそびえ、国内だけでなく海外からの旅行客に人気の新世界エリアもあります。
天王寺界隈は、キタ(梅田)、ミナミ(難波)と並ぶ、大阪の第3の観光エリアと言えるでしょう。

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動物と触れ合える!「天王寺動物園」

天王寺動物園とはどんな動物園?

天王寺動物園は、公園内の11ヘクタールのエリアの中に、200種、900点の動物が飼育されています。

天王寺動物園の特徴は、飼育する動物たちを、できるだけ野生の環境に近い状態で展示する、いわゆる、生態展示の工夫がされている点です。

昔は、他の動物園と同じく、天王寺動物園においても、飼育する動物をそれぞれ鉄の檻の中に入れ、入園客は檻の中から眺めるだけでした。

しかし21世紀に入り、それぞれの動物を、実際に生息する環境に近い形で展示しようという声が高まり、天王寺動物園は大きくリニューアルされました。
これを期に、入園者数は大きく増加し、2006年には入園者総数が1億人を突破しています。

一番の見どころはアフリカサバンナ

では、次に、天王寺動物園の生態展示エリアについて、いくつかご紹介しましょう。

一番の見どころ&おすすめは、アフリカサバンナというエリアです。ここには、アフリカのサバンナ地域に生息する動物たちが暮らしています。

このアフリカサバンナは、東アフリカのサバンナの環境を模して作られています。
乾燥した地面に背の低い草が生え、ところどころに高い木が植えられています。また、大きな水飲み場があり、動物たちが思い思いに水を飲む姿を見ることができます。

このエリアは、肉食動物エリアと草食動物エリアに分かれています。実際のサバンナでは、当然みな一緒に暮らしていますが、動物園内でそんなことをすると、シマウマなどの草食動物が、ライオンなどに食べられてしまうので、そこは仕方ないですね。

肉食動物エリアの見どころはライオン。
たてがみが見事な雄ライオンと、数匹の雌ライオンとが1つのエリアに住んでいます。ライオンがいるエリアと入園者との間には、一応、堀のようなものがありますが、鉄の柵などはありません。

距離はありますけど、もしライオンが飛びかかってきたらどうしようとドキドキしてしまいます。

一方、草食動物エリアでは、背の高いキリンや、数頭のシマウマなどが、広々とした草原を、自由に歩き回る姿を眺めることができます。

高い木にしげっている葉っぱを、キリンが長い首を伸ばして食べ、同時に、木の下では、シマウマが背の低い草をムシャムシャと食べています。

一般の動物園では、木や草など何にもないところで、草食動物が飼育されているのに比べると、このサバンナの風景はなかなか見応えありますよ。

その他の生態展示についてご紹介

天王寺動物園の生態展示は、アフリカサバンナのエリアだけではありません。アフリカサバンナと並ぶ、生態展示エリアの代表が「アジアの熱帯雨林」です。

このエリアは、タイの熱帯雨林をイメージして作られています。
エリアの周りから眺めるだけでは、「たくさんの葉っぱがついた背の高い熱帯の木々が生い茂る森」にしか見えません。

しかし、森の入口から内部に入ると、木々の間を人間1人が通れるほどの小径が伸びています。この小径は、熱帯雨林の中央を取り囲むように、ぐるりと一周しています。
では、その中央には何がいるかというと、それはアジアゾウ。

そう、アジアゾウのすみかを取り巻くように、熱帯雨林が作られているのです。

中央のすみかでは、大きなアジアゾウがえさを食べたり、水飲み場で水を飲んだりする姿を間近で眺めることができます。

もう1つのおすすめは「鳥の楽園」です。その名の通り、鳥類のすみかであり、一種の鳥かごです。

とはいっても、ただの鳥かごではありません。なんと3200平方メートルにも及ぶ、国内有数の巨大な鳥かごです。

また、ただ柵に囲われただけの殺風景なものではありません。その中には、多くの種類の木々が植えられ、また、川や滝などの水辺も設置されています。

この巨大な鳥かごの中を、大変多くの種類の鳥たちが縦横無尽に飛び回っています。入園者は、鳥かごの中に設置された散策通路を歩きながら、飛び回る鳥たちを眺めることができます。
高い木の上に巣が作られて、さらに、卵が置かれている状態も見ることができますよ。

たかが動物園というなかれ。

動物の本来の生息環境下での、生き生きした姿を見ることができる天王寺動物園を、ぜひ一度訪れていただければと思います。

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