Inside Hong Kong’s Ocean Park as it opens ‘The Little Meerkat and Giant Tortoise Adventure’

Marissa Chow
  • The exhibit is meant to be entertaining while teaching visitors more about the planet
  • Interactive games and installations feature e-books and races against different African animals
Marissa Chow |

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Meerkats and tortoises are the newest residents at Ocean Park. Photo: SCMP/Alejo Rodriguez Lo

Ocean Park is throwing open the doors to its newest animal exhibit, which features meerkats and tortoises. The Little Meerkat and Giant Tortoise Adventure will give visitors the chance not only to see the new animals but to see the world from their points of view.

Two rare Aldabra giant tortoises, one of the biggest species in the world, have ponds, heat lights and thermal regulators to keep temperature just right for them. The species comes from the Seychelles, a group of islands off Africa where they are the largest animals in the country. They can live up to 200 years.

A mob of 20 busy meerkats greets visitors from a dry, sandy environment made to look like their home on the African savannah. They have a sandpit to dig in and tunnels to go from inside their cage to outdoors. They also have heatpads to keep them toasty when things get chilly in Hong Kong’s winter.

Meerkats are a model of harmonious family life, and in the wild there can be 50 in a group. Every animal takes part in hunting for food, keeping a lookout for predators and taking care of the babies.

The new exhibit houses two different meerkat families with 15 pups. Three of the Hong Kong-born pups were named Charles, Jeff and Yan, respectively, after a poll was conducted on Facebook. This set of names is the transliteration of popular local drinks (milk tea with condensed milk, black coffee and coffee with tea) to match the meerkats’ fur.

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“Every element of [the exhibit] has been carefully considered,” says outgoing Ocean Park chairman Leo Kung Lin-cheng. The interior is mostly earth-toned, and accented with colourful tribal designs and environmentally-friendly features such as LED sensor lights and natural lighting to minimise the use of electricity and bring visitors closer to nature.

A series of interactive games and installations allows visitors to learn about the animals through e-books, race against different African animals, and help meerkats and giant tortoises pick their food.

In the outdoor area, visitors can crawl into a burrow and observe meerkats’ activities from a lower viewing angle. They can also squeeze into life-size tortoise shell models and see the world from a giant tortoise’s perspective. Finally, a model termite mound, equipped with four speakers, allows visitors to listen to meerkat calls and learn what they mean.

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The two giant tortoises, Dai Mui and Sai Mui (meaning elder and younger sister in Chinese), are male – since it is difficult to identify the gender of young Aldabra giant tortoises, they were mistakenly named as females. They love eating juicy fruits and vegetables, and Dai Mui is often found chilling in the exhibit’s ponds.

“We are excited to have meerkats and Aldabra giant tortoises ... playing a part in furthering the park’s education and conservation mission. [We hope that] all visitors – young and old – can have an entertaining and educational adventure that brings to life the importance of respecting all living creatures on Earth,” Kung says.

Headline: Exciting new creatures Subhead: Learn about the world of meerkats and giant tortoises by exploring their habitat and taking part in interactive games

Ocean Park is throwing open the doors to its newest animal exhibit today, including meerkats and tortoises. Special features of The Little Meerkat and Giant Tortoise Adventure will give visitors the chance not only to see the new animals but to see the world from their points of view.

Two rare Aldabara giant tortoises, one of the biggest species in the world, have ponds, heat lights and thermal regulators to keep temperature just right for them. The species comes from the Seychelles, islands off Africa where they are the largest animals in the whole country. They can live to be 200 years old.

A mob of 20 busy meerkats greets visitors from a dry sandy environment made to look like their home on the African savannah. They have sandpit to dig in and tunnels to go from inside their cage to outdoors. They also have heatpads to keep them toasty with things get chilly in Hong Kong’s winter.

Meerkats are a model of harmonious family living, and in the wild there can be 50 individuals in a group. Every animal takes part in hunting for food, keeping a lookout for predators and taking care of the babies.

The new exhibit houses two different meerkat families with 15 pups. Three of the Hong Kong-born pups were named Charles, Jeff and Yan, respectively, after a poll was conducted on Facebook. This set of names is the transliteration of popular local drinks (milk tea with condensed milk, black coffee and coffee with tea) to match the meerkats’ fur.

“Every element of [the exhibit] has been carefully considered,” says outgoing Ocean Park chairman Leo Kung Lin-cheng. The interior is mostly earth-toned, accented with colourful tribal designs and environmentally-friendly features such as LED sensor lights and natural lighting to minimise the use of electricity and bring visitors closer to nature. A series of interactive games and installations allows visitors to learn about the animals through e-books, race against different African animals, and help meerkats and giant tortoises pick their food.

In the outdoor area, visitors can crawl into a burrow and observe meerkats’ activities from a lower viewing angle. They can also squeeze into life-sized tortoise shell models and see the world from a giant tortoise’s perspective. Finally, a model termite mound, equipped with four speakers, allows visitors to listen to meerkat calls and learn about what they mean by answering questions.

The two giant tortoises, Dai Mui and Sai Mui (meaning elder and younger sister in Chinese), are male – since it is difficult to identify the gender of young Aldabra giant tortoises, they were mistakenly named as females. They love eating juicy fruits and vegetables, and Dai Mui is often found chilling in the exhibit’s ponds.

“We are very excited to have meerkats and Aldabra giant tortoises ... playing a part in furthering the park’s education and conservation mission. [We hope that] all visitors – young and grown – can have a truly [entertaining and educational] adventure that brings to life the importance of respecting all living creatures on Earth,” Kung says.