Who knew beavers could be so adorable.
Ranua wildlife zoo was an impromptu day trip for me, when I was couchsurfing with the awesome Elina in Rovaniemi, Finland for a weekend in 2019. I was not even aware of the Ranua zoo before coming to Rovaniemi, or anything else for that matter, as Rovaniemi was another one of my trips on a whim, this time based on my Australian friend Grant’s recommendation that I absolutely must meet Elina (and he was right!). She had convinced her father to drive us to the Santa Claus village on Saturday, but shortly after my arrival on Friday he decided to just borrow us the car for the entire weekend and off we went!
We drove to Ranua zoo early on Saturday, as it is about an hour out of Rovaniemi and a bit hard to get to with public transport, so I would not have been able to visit it if the universe hadn’t handed us the car. At first we were a bit sceptical of how many animals will be out and about during the snowy winter day, but we ended up getting incredibly lucky, as we got to see every single animal and they were surprisingly active.
Ranua wildlife zoo focuses on the arctic and northern animal species and features the only polar bears living in Finland. It is located in a woodland area and makes for a very nice walk, as the trail takes you through the forest past all the animal habitats. The animals live in spacious enclosures and their living conditions seemed decent, which is very important to me when visiting a zoo. The zoo obviously has moose and Lapland reindeer, as well as arctic foxes, dholes, a lynx, wolves, wolverines and plenty of birds and little rodents. They also have quite a few owls and I was surprised by how active they were; the perpetual winter greyness seemed to suit them.
Ranua zoo impressions
The highlights of our visit were definitely the beavers and the cheeky Mr. polar bear. I’d never seen a beaver that up close, as they tend to be busy with their outside dams or in the water, but this time three ultra cute, plump rodent balls were chilling in their inside enclosure. Apparently they make adorable squeaky noises and like to groom each other – we got to witness the whole adorable beaver grooming ritual.
First one of them would slouch over to the other one and squeak at them, inviting them to participate in the grooming. If the other beaver was up for it, he would squeak-accept it and they would start licking and grooming each other. I’d never thought about it before, but beavers really are so plump that they cannot reach some parts of their bodies by themselves. After completing the grooming ritual to their satisfaction, both beavers would squeakily thank each other and part ways. We also got to see the annoyed squeaking, when one of the beavers was not interested in the grooming the other was offering, as he prefered to munch on his carrot. You can check out a beaver video below, but the squeaking seems to have been too quiet to get recorded.
The other super cute aaawh inspiring moment came as a courtesy of Mr. polar bear. When we walked up to the polar bear enclosure we could see one of the magnificent white bears proudly prowling around his territory and trying to get through the door (it must have been close to feeding time). Right as Elina asked me if I thought the bear was happy in his habitat, he decided to do the cutest bear barrel roll, rolling back and forth in the snow with his paws up in the air, right in the happy baby yoga pose. We both started laughing and it looked like he had answered our question. On a more serious note, I’m not an animal psychologist, so I don’t actually know if that meant the bear was happy or in distress or something, but I hope he was as happy as possible. Also, polar bears are huge!
Mr. Polar Bear
After finishing the circuit trail around the zoo, which also features a small ice bar inside a snowy tent, we entered the candy kingdom known as the outlet Fazer shop right outside the zoo entrance (you can check out my Finnish candy haul here). Leaving no candy behind, we drove to the Santa Claus village to meet the big man himself, which deserves to be told in a separate post.
P.S.: Besides lending us the car and greeting me with a big smile, Elina’s father was also one of those awesome people who heard about my collection of coasters and brought one for me on Sunday. Unfortunately it was after I had already left Rovaniemi, so something more came out of it: the Finnish-Slovenian token exchange! 🙂