Bailiwick Ranch & Discovery Zoo: All-Access Animal Pass
The Bailiwick Ranch & Discovery Zoo, located up the same winding back road as the old Catskill Game Farm, gives kids a chance to get up close and personal with all kinds of creatures. Our kids loved it, but as a parents and animal-lover, I had some concerns.
The day after our visit, the Times-Union published an article about animal welfare violations at the zoo. I wouldn't want to support a zoo that neglects their animals, but many of the animals here were rescued by the Bailiwick staff, and I'd like to believe that the zoo owners don't mean any harm. I'm hoping that posting about this place may lead to more ticket sales, which can help them toward a brighter future.
Inside the ticket sales building (pictured above), I checked out the animal food counter while Archer peeked into a pink play pen and called out a distressed-sounding, "Mommy, come here!" Inside the open pen, there was a little kangaroo in an open bag, barely moving. I thought it was strange that the kangaroo had been left unattended -- especially with small children wandering around the room. We hoped the little animal wasn't sick, but this image stayed with me as we made our way outside.
Out back, we met this friendly camel, who walked to the edge of his pen to greet us.
Now, I don't know anything about camels. I have no idea if they'd be capable of scaling the very shallow ditch and low fence surrounding their pen. But as you can see below, this feels like a low-security, backyard zoo. There's far less separation from the animals than at the city zoos we're used to.
And though I wouldn't consider myself an expert on ring-tailed lemurs, I did throw a lemur-themed party for Archer's fifth birthday (at his request!) and this seems like an awfully tiny cage for three small primates:
It wouldn't be hard for a curious kid to crawl through the fence and get close to these intelligent, bright-eyed creatures. The "WE BITE" signs are the only deterrent.
When Archer read another "WE BITE" sign beside the parrots, he covered his head and squealed because they're not in a cage at all. He was even more freaked out by a "WE BITE" sign near an empty perch. "Biting birds on the loose!" he cried.
He later spotted the free-roaming parrot perched on the deer cage.
I couldn't find a marker on the enclosure pictured below, but the inhabitants appeared to be a pair of baboons, one of which stared at Ramona through the corner of the cage.
And I can't tell if the baboon looked sad, clinging to the chain link fence, or if this is just a typical baboon face.
Again, I'm not going to pretend to read monkey faces, but the guy below had a much smaller cage.
The tigers seemed peaceful, and I've never been this close to a tiger -- separated only by a chain link fence and a second round of low fencing.
Like many animals here, this Syrian brown bear named Tallulah was rescued by the Bailiwick staff. She was raised with a German shepherd named Kayden, and their friendship was featured on Animal Planet's Too Cute.
Archer's favorite animals were the two red-billed black swans, which were splashing around in a pair of plastic kiddie pools.
We loved seeing the farm animals, like pigs, goats, and donkeys. Check out the joy on Archer's face as Pete feeds this sheep.
And despite the less-than-thrilled expressions on my kids' overheated faces, Bailiwick offers a great pony ride! The horses were small enough that even 2-year-old Ramona rode comfortably, and the girls who led the way were friendly and chatty.
All in all, Bailiwick offers a zoo experience different from any we've experienced before. Hopefully they are working to correct their animal welfare violations and are working to build the happiest home possible for the animals in their care. More photos in the gallery below.