(WILDLIFE TRAVEL) Vacationing in Asia? Whether you want to stay in the city or visit remote religious sites, Asia has a lot to offer the animal lover. Before you book your tickets, check out this list of the best places to see and learn about the diverse animals in the wild and in sanctuaries. From pandas to tigers, these animal tourism spots are sure to fascinate. — Global Animal
Chengdu Panda Breeding Center
The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center is a big destination for western tourists in China. China is trying to save its iconic, endangered panda with an ambitious breeding program for the animal that has a notoriously hard time reproducing and finding nutrition. The 13 sanctuaries in the Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains area are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The basic tour is 58 renminbi, about $8.50. For something like $150-200 you may get a few minutes holding a baby panda, some visitors say.
Baishuijang Nature Preserve
Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve is sometimes called China’s Yellowstone, Fodor’s says, meaning it’s gorgeous, but also popular and crowded. It’s also one of the few places outside Sichuan you might see a panda. It’s in
Wenxian County, south of Gansu Province. Chinabird.net calls it an important birding area.
Bonus species: the vulnerable Pallas’s fish-eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), the flashy Chinese monal
Labahe Nature Reserve
The mountainous Labahe Nature Reserve was started in 1963 to help save the giant panda. It’s one of 13 nature preserves in the area that are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Bonus species: black-necked crane, Chinese monal
The Bifeng Gorge is where many pandas were moved after China’s 2008 catastrophic earthquake. Opened in 2004, the Bifengxia Panda Base provides a warmer climate than the other panda areas. Visitors describe it as easy to see pandas in the semi-wild near a zoo.
Dafeng Elk National Elk Preserve
Dafeng Elk National Preserve has about 1,000 free-ranging elk near the Yellow Sea. The park started in 1986 with 18 of the species of elk that were wiped out from China but kept alive in zoos in Europe. You can visit for about
22 yuan. 0515-83391912
Kazaringa National Park
Kazaringa National Park in Assam, India, has the world’s largest populations of one-horned rhinos and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park has been hit by poachers going after rhino horn to send to China, but it also sends rhinos to other parks in India. Kazaringa, recently featured in National Geographic, is off the tourist track because it’s in the remote eastern province of Assam. You ride on elephant on safari to see wild elephants, tigers, barasinghs (swamp deer), sambas, panther, civet, baur, wild buffalo, sloth bear.
Kumbalgarh Widllife Sanctuary
Only a few thousand Indian wolves (Canis lupus pallipes) are left. Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary may be one of the best places to see them. Udaipur tourist officials claim they’re easy to spot: “This sanctuary inhabits more than forty wolves in number. In the summers, one can easily find pack of wolves strolling around water sources in the sanctuary.”
Wolf.org has an incredible paper describing the difference among three sub-species and map of where they live. (The main group is mainly in western India and Pakistan. A Himalayan subspecies is up by Nepal and Tibet. A wolf-dog version is in and around Kasmir.)
Chilka Lake is a huge migratory bird stop and one of the few places the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) lives. The local tourist board says the dolphin boat tours support about 500 families and are 95% successful. The lake includes the Nalbana Bird Sanctuary, where greater flamingos, sea eagles, storks, pelicans and waterfowl visit.
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve has one of the highest concentrations of tigers in the world. The national park is home many lodges and the White Tiger of Rewa.
Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore National Park used to be where the Maharaja of Jaipur would hunt tigers. Now it’s a national park and one of India’s 9 tiger reserves.
Bonus species: leopard, sambal, wild pig, gaur
Panna National Park
Panna National Park, once famous for its tigers, became infamous in 2009 because all the tigers were gone, killed by poachers. A quick effort was made to move in some breeding cats.
India has 1,400 tigers, 300 of which live in Madhya Pradesh, known as the “tiger state of India.”
Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary – Asiatic Lions
Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the last holdout of the Asiatic lion because they’ve been protected here since 1947.
Responsible Travel has tours that visit. You will need a special permit to visit the park, except for the 4 km fenced Gir Interpretation Area, which has lions.
Bonus species: leopards, antelope, deer, jackals, hyenas, and marsh crocodiles
Corbett National Park – Bengal Tiger
Corbett is India’s oldest national park and where Project Tiger started in 1973. The Bengal tigers here live in the Himalayan foothills. The park has one of India’s 9 tiger preserves.
Tours sometimes include an elephant safari on stay at the lodge.
Bonus Species: Leopard, barking deer, elephant, various cats.
SitaMata Jungle Wildlife Sanctuary
SitaMata Jungle Wildlife Sanctuary near Dhariyawad stretches over a wide area, has safari tours and is home to four-horned antelope, panther, flying squirrel, pangolin, wild boar, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, caracal, porcupine and Nilgai. One tourist site after another brags about its giant flying squirrels. But this Rajastan guide says they’re seldom seen.
Neelankarai Beach- India-Oliver Ridley Sea Turtle
One of the few places in the world you can see Oliver Ridley Sea Turtles is this stretch of beach around Neelankarai beach. The Tree Foundation works with local students, who patrol the beaches to protect the turtles and eggs.
Tree Foundation No. 63, Ist Avenue, Vettuvankeni, Chennai – 600 041, India.
Giant Squirrel Sanctuary
The Giant Srivilliputhur Squirrel Sanctuary has most of the last population of 300 black and white Grizzled Giant Squirrels(Ratufa macroura). So, it’s also known as the Grizzled Giant Squirrel Sanctuary. See pictures of the big (3 kg ) squirrel atARKive.
The Raja Ampat Islands in Papau, Indonesia, are supposed to have the largest number of leatherback turtle nests in the Pacific. Save Our Leatherbacks Operation believes the islands have less than 1,000 nesting turtles left. SOLO leads trips for divers to live aboard a boat. The area also has eco lodges.
Jigokudani Snow Monkeys
Jigokudani (Hell’s Valley) yaenkoen accomodates the nothern most monkeys in he world by offering them a natural hot spring. The Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata), also known as the Snow Monkey or saru, keep warm in the hot springs in the winter. Blue Planet Biomes says the monkeys live in four spots in Japan: Honshu’s Shimokita Peninsula in the northwest; the Nagano Mountains near the Shiga Kogen volcano; the island of Oshima, just off the Hanto Peninsula and the subtropical island of Yaku-Shima, which has the most. The Jigokudani Monkey Park is the easiest way to see them. Zeno’s Guide has useful monkey-watching tips.
Located in the valley of Yokoyu-River that flowing from Shigakogen area of the northern part of Nagano-Prefecture.
Okayama Salamander Festival
Okayama has famous spring water and a river that is home to a rare, protected HUGE salamander.The village of Yubara Onsen holds the Hanzaki Festival every August 8 at 3 pm, AltJapan says. Giant salamander floats travel down the street. You’ll have a harder time seeing the real thing, even though they can grow to five feet.
Yaku-shima is like Japan’s Florida. This southern island is the most tropical in Japan and has tons of plants and wildlife. While the cold mountains of Japan are more famous for their macaques, more actually live here–about 7,000, according to the visitor’s guide. The Yakuzaru (Yakushima Monkey) is smaller and bushier than other Japanese monkeys. Yakushika (Yakushima deer) are also smaller. Look for them both along the 13 km. long Seibu-rindo Forest Path, says the official guide. It’s also an important birding area.
Nagata Inaka-hama Beach on Yaku-shima Island, Japan, is a major nesting spot for endangered Loggerhead and green turtles. It’s the biggest nesting site in the north Pacific for the Loggerheads with 4,000 nests in 2005. The 100-some tourists that come out to see them every night have become a problem, the Daily Yomiuri reports. The group Yakushima Umigame Kan protects them. Turtles lay eggs April – July and they hatch July – September. Yoronto Island near Okinawa and Chichijima Island are other important Japanese turtle nesting areas.
The island of Shikoku has whale cruises from many of its fishing ports. Whaleroute reports this schedule: Humpback (Feb – April) Year round: spinner and bottlenose dolphin Sperm whale (summer – autumn)
The city of Nara, near Osaka, has turned its population of sika deer into a tourist attraction. The deer roam everywhere, eat anything and have learned to bow to visitors, the LA Times reports. Vendors and vending machines sell “deer courtesy crackers” (鹿煎餅 Shika-senbei) to feed the deer and outdoor restaurants give diners biscuits to pay the deer not to molest them. The deer literally were considered a sacred gift from the gods and people were put to death for killing them. Now they are officially a national treasure. About 1200 roam the city park. They have an annual Shika Tsuno Kiri festival to trim the deer’s horns.
Humpback whales breed around the Kerama islands in early spring. You may see them from shore on Tokashiki-jima or Zamami-jima Islands. Zamami has plenty of tour boats, too.
You can only get to the Ogasawara Islands by taking a 25-hour ferry from Tokyo. But once you get here, you have a 90% chance of seeing humpback whales. From February to April, you can see humpbacks from land. Sperm whales are seen in summer and fall. Dolphin swims year-round.
Kazakhstan has the world’s largest wolf population, about 90,000, despite decades of hunting them for bounties. Its biggest nature reserve is Altyn-Emel National Park
Bonus species: Siberian mountain goats (teke), desert deer (jeran), kulan, mountain ram, wolv, fox, eagle.
Krau Wildlife Reserve
Malaysia’s Krau Wildlife Reserve has 70-some species of bats and a sanctuary for displaced elephants in Kuala Gandah. The park breeds seladang (a kind of buffalo) and hosts Malayan Peacock-pheasant.Malaysian Bat Education Adventure says the park has wild dog, clouded leopard, leopard, tiger, Malayan tapir, Malayan sun bear, gaur, civet, 19 species of squirrel and flying squirrel, mouse deer, otters, siamang, white handed gibbon, banded-leaf monkey, dusky-leaf monkey, and slow loris.
Gunung Lesser National Park
Malaysia’s Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the last places orangutans live. The Sumatran Orangutan Society works with the Orangutan Information Centre to train local guides from Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan to create a way for tourists to encourage surivival of the species. Bukit Lawang has a orangutan rehab center, but was hit by floods caused by logging. The park has about 6,000 orangutans, Sumatran Rhino (the smallest and most endangered), gibbons, Malayan sun bear, crocodiles, leatherback turtle, Sumatran elephant and tiger and adorable slow loris.
Malaysia’s Niah Cave National Park is home to thousands of bats and black-nest swiftlets. Traders collect guano from bats and teeny nests from the birds for Chinese birds nest soup. Malaysia has bout 70 species of bat, one third are threatened or endangered. The cave is also a big archeological find, with human evidence from 40,000 years ago. +60-82-442180
Wildlife Rehab Centre-Borneo
Malaysia’s Semengoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre takes in organutans that have been illegally captured or kept as pets and trains them to live in the wild. You can visit for twice daily feedings, which you witness from a distance. The center also retrains hornbills, an odd bird with a comically huge beak that seals itself in a tree to nest. The center is about 15 miles south of Kuching in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
The Maldives just declared three areas of the southern atoll protected for Whale Sharks: the coral reefs and waters in and around Baa atoll Hanifaru and An’gafaru, and South Ari atoll Maamigili. In general whale sharks are seen year round on the outer edges of South Ari Atoll (also called Alif or Alufu Atoll). The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme is studying the local whale sharks and promoting their safety–against the backdrop of their being caught for Asian fish markets. The program takes volunteers regularly.
Ras Al Jinz, Oman
Ras Al Jinz in Oman is one of the best places in the world to see green turtles, which enjoy a protected area nearly 100 miles long. The facility has an elegant restaurant and hotel. Others camp nearby, out of range of the turtles. +968 96 55 06 06
Arabian Leopards, Oman
Only about 100 Arabian leopards are left in Oman because of poaching and pest control. You can go on a $2,200 expedition to look for the cats with the Omani Diwan of Royal Court.
Elk Island, Moscow
Losiny Ostrov “Elk Island” National Park (Национальный парк “Лосиный Остров”) in Moscow was named after European elk (moose) and also has red deer (elk), the Moscow News reports.
Bonus species: wild boar, red squirrel (especially in Tsaritsyno near Orekhovo metro station where dogs are banned. Also try Kuzminki, Izmailovsky and Pokrovsko-Streshnevo parks) and beaver (the marsh area near Mytischi)
Kostroma Moose Farm
The Kostroma Moose Farm (ЛОСИНАЯ ФЕРМА) is trying to prove that moose can thrive as domestic animals–as long as they are allowed to roam free part of the year. Russians have been experimenting with using moose as military animals and livestock for ages. This farm started in 1963 and has had many missions and government bosses. The current purpose is quite gentle: the moose are milked, studied and let wander, tracked by GPS. Tourists can visit in the summer, when they aren’t a danger to vulnerable calves. Guided tours are about $5. (+7 4942) 35 94 33 It’s less than 200 miles from Moscow.
As walruses start spending more time on land because the arctic ice is melting, they are turning up in huge numbers on Cape Schmidt, Cape Shmidt, on the mainland south of Wrangel Island.
40,000 were reported in 2007. About 2,000 of the larger Russian population of 200,000 died in stampedes in the crowding. Мыс Шмидта, Russian Federation
Ussuri Tiger Reserve – Putin’s Tiger
Ussuri State Nature Reserve is where Vladimir Putin hopes to save the Siberian Tiger from poachers. The Russian Prime Minister famously loves tigers, tracks them on his website and considers them a tough symbol of Russia. In 2008 Putin shot a tiger who had gotten loose with a tranquilizer dart.
Tiger populations worldwide have been weakened by poachers. In Russia the Amur tiger was once considered a success but its numbers fell by a dramatic 40% in 12 years.
Several Russian tour agencies offer trips to this remote forest north of Vladistock. Siberian Tiger and the Ussury Wild Cat, the Black Stork and Mandarin Duck, the Himalayan Black Bear, the Siberian Musk Deer
Lazovsky Nature Preserve
Lazovsky Nature Preserve is one of a handful of sites where Russian scientists are tracking the rare Amur Tiger and hoping to save it from poachers.
This site says that in the Khabarovsk territory lives only on the right side of Amur river. It likes the western slope of the Sikhote-Alin mountain ridge and pools of the Khor, Anuy and Tagemu river being the left inflow of the Sukpay river. Sikhote Alin Mountains
Altai Snow Leopard Project
Snow Leopards travel through the remote Altai region of Russia on the border of Mongolia. Researchers here let animal tourists come along and help track the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and the world’s largest biggest sheep, the Altai argali.
Several companies offer the tour here that has won high praise for its eco-tourism credentials.
Bonus species: wolf, brown bear, lynx
Russian Academy of Sciences biological research reserve
A small group of the endangered Amur Tigers live in an enclosed woods at the Russian Academy of Sciences biological research reserve in Gaiveron (Gayvoron) Village in Spassk country. Victor Yudin, head of vertebrate zoology, raises the big cats and talks to visitors on tours.
Solovetsky Island, near Finland, may be the best place in the world to see beluga whales. These are the white whales that seem to grin and live mainly in the arctic. They visit the White Sea in summer. The Karelian area also has old gulags. Solovecké ostrovy
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project returns gibbons who have been kept as pets to the wild after teaching them to survive. Ton Sai and Bang Pae is located in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park 22 kilometers north of Phuket Town on the way to the airport
The Tiger Temple is a popular tourist spot, but it has a controversial reputation. The Buddhist monks are supposed to be caring for tigers orphaned by poachers, but a 2008 investigation by Care for Wild International said the tigers were really from a breeding farm. ResponsibleTravel.com says it won’t send visitors there because it fears tigers and tourists are mishandled (such as kids sitting on tigers).
More AnimalTourism.com: http://www.animaltourism.com/regions/asia.html