Pakawi Park

I have mentioned the Olmense Zoo a couple of times in the past but in the years since we last visited, the ownership, the name and the purpose have all changed. It’s still at the same location, though.

Back in 2017, the zoo was found to be in violation of several animal welfare rules. They were unable to sufficiently rectify these and the zoo lost it’s licence in 2017. In 2019 it reopened as Pakawi Park, now specialising on big cats and with more of a focus on conservation and education. Reflecting that specialisation is the fact that the park is named after Paka and Awi, a pair of Siberian tigers.

We visited the Park shortly after it reopened in 2019 and, last week, we went for another look. The improvements are still ongoing and looking impressive. The enclosures have been reorganised to provide more space for the animals and further renovations are clearly in progress, most notably is that a new monkey house is on the way. Overall, the transition from a traditional zoo to a more modern experience does appear to be working well.

This being Belgium, the weather wasn’t great, but we did have an enjoyable day out and will certainly be back. If only to see if the persistent peacock finally managed to get into the restaurant.

A peacock trying to find his way into the restaurant at Pakawi Park

The future of food

Last year I mentioned that the Olmense Zoo (which is handily close to us) now has insectburgers on the menu. And on Saturday we were in the zoo at lunchtime, so I gave one a try.

It’s really rather good.

The texture is very meaty. So much so that, if it wasn’t for all the signs promoting the fact that the burger is made of mealworms, I probably wouldn’t have realised there was anything out of the ordinary about it at all.

The taste of the burger is not particularly strong, and pretty much overwhelmed by the barbecue sauce that was included with the burger. It’s certainly not unpleasant, it’s just not much of anything.

Of course, the crucial question with something like this is: would I eat it again. The answer is a resounding yes.

Insects are high in protein and a lot less fatty than beef and pork, they can also provide an equivalent protein yield for far fewer resources. The only downside is cultural – we, in the west are not used to eating insects and tend to have a ‘yuck’ response when faced with the idea. Serving them as a burger gets around this very neatly indeed.

Now all the world needs is a for someone to invent the chili con mealworm.

Insect Burgers

Yesterday, we took a trip to the zoo. It’s handily close and we were able to go by bike and, after much wondering, we stopped for ice cream. While there, I noticed a large sight in the zoo’s restaurant advertising Insect Burgers as a tasty alternative to meat and fish. This struck me as quite a good idea.

Much has been said about insects being a much more efficient source of protein than raising large animals, but many people react to this with a “Yuck”. Grinding the bugs up and turning them into burgers gets around this quite nicely – a burger is a burger and there isn’t much in a protein patty for most people to object to.

I mentioned this on the Fediverse and that triggered a discussion that was both lengthy and interesting and managed to derail it self into total tripe.

Wanting to know a bit more, I took an online look around this morning and found this (in Dutch).

The Olmense Zoo started serving insect burgers in March of this year and, from the article, it looks like the people behind the burgers were thinking what I thought when I saw them. According to Robby Van der Velden, a biologist at the zoo, insects are high in protein and a lot less fatty than meats such as pork and beef. Although eating insects is not obvious in western society, it can certainly catch on if the meat is processed.

Van der Velden also makes the point about insects requiring much less environmental resources and provides some numbers: To produce a kilo of beef, you need 14 kilos of grass, while a kilo of insect meat only needs about two kilos of grass to produce.

It was too late in the day, yesterday, for me to give this a try. But when we go again, and if we are there at lunchtime (which is highly likely) I will certainly order an insect burger, just to see what it’s like.