Beijing Zoo is one of those places that is *just* off the beaten track, but one which is often on that secondary list of places once visitors ahve seen the main sights of Beijing.
I am not a great supporter of zoos or safari parks in general, but in Less Developed Countries they can play an important role in educating people about the environment. Of course they usually do nothing of the kind, and in China it is common to see ignorant people feeding fast food to the animals.
For a long time, zoos here demonstrated one of every animal, and each was housed in a small bare cage. It made a pathetic sight and was really a commentary on man's inhumanity to other species on the planet.
Things are slowly changing and some zoos in China are developing a more humane approach. At Beijing Zoo, the appointment of a specialist enrichment officer has paid dividends for the welfare of many animals. Dr Corinne Harrington has been working with the zoo authorities and local groups to create better living environments for the inmates.
Combined with a new policy of sharing animals between different zoos to create groups rather than single specimens has also resulted in better conditions for all.
The Giant Pandas are obviously the star attraction at Beijing Zoo and they have a big compound and a big indoor centre.
Our children have mixed feelings about the zoo, as hey get harassed a lot by people wanting to take their photographs (sometimes queuing up to take their photograph which is pretty pathetic).
The zoo is not as bad as some of the guidebooks make out, and if the weather is good it is an enjoyable place to visit.
We've done a walking map of the area around Beijing Zoo. It has explanations of the local sights, including old temples and museums, Matteo Ricci's grave, local shopping 'emporia', etc. There is a lot of history around here because the Empress Dowager used to go by boat from the Forbidden City to the Summer Palace, and this area was on the way. You can even download the map and explanations to take when you're sightseeing. (The map was done by our hotel, but it's a public service for all visitors to the area). http://www.newcenturyhotel.com.cn/eng/walkingmap/main.htm