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  #1
Antwerp zoo
Old 20-05-2008

The Antwerp zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world. Their breeding records with Okapi, Congo peafowl and Owl faced Guenons are amazing, and the rate of updating the facilities for their animals is incredible. Ready for a tour around the oldest zoo in Belgium?

On entering the zoo, the first exhibit is the winter garden. This greenhouse is full of tropical plants, and small tanks with various invertebrates and amphibians. There is also an exhibit for golden headed lion tamarins and Pygmy marmosets. This exhibit is nothing special, it has a mesh wall, and wood chipping floor. There is also a bridge that allows the callithrids outside into a larger, more planted exhibit space.

The winter garden is attached to the zoo's monkey house. This monkey house has had several different forms, but the monkeys at Antwerp have always been displayed at this area at the top of the zoo. The current monkey house dates from 1978. There used to be many species kept here, but the zoo has decided to focus on more conservation relevant species, and to combine the relatively small exhibit areas into a larger, more enriching environment.

Inside the monkey house are many species of smaller primates, Goeldi's moneky, Common marmoset and emperor tamarin all kept in glass fronted, lushly planted exhibits. The larger monkeys, like the Hanuman langur, Sulawesi macaque, spider monkey, Owl faced guenon, Javan langur and black and white colubus, have been given exhibits which are larger, but are still many times smaller than exhibits in other zoos. They have concrete floors with wooden climbing frames attached and there is hay strewn across the floor; compare this to another monkey house (Chester's monkey islands) and it is obvious that quality rather than quantity is the better policy for these 'monkey houses'. Having said that, this is one of the few areas in the zoo that is really not up to modern standards.

Outside the monkey house are two large island exhibits for two of the larger old world monkey species; Mandrill and hamadrayas baboons. These exhibits are very much larger than those given to the species inside, and so they should be; these baboons are much bigger than the langurs inside.

By the monkey house is the gorgeous Flemish garden, with it's richly planted flower-beds and elegant topiary. There are animals kept by the Flemish garden in a row of mesh type exhibits, which you would normally expect to find animals like small cats in. But Antwerp is not a normal zoo. They keep large spotted genet and african brush tailed porcupine in one of these exhibits, and Blue Duiker and Babirusa in the other two. The genet and brush tailed porcupines are not as large, or active as Babirusa or duiker and their exhibit is of quite a good standard. The duiker exhibit is nothing special, but with the mesh exhibit it is very hard to see or take photos of them because, with their shy nature, they stay right at the very back of their exhibit. The male babirusa at Antwerp is very old and has problems with his tusks, which mean that they are growing into his head and intertwining together. The exhibit is rather small, and this species would appreciate a larger exhibit, but maybe it would be better for Antwerp to go out of keeping this species and expanding the duiker enclosure.

Next to the Flemish garden is the Okapi complex. There are three exhibits for Okapi here, one with grass, and the other two with a concrete/garvel substrate flooring. Antwerp zoo has had great success withy Okapi, and was the first zoo to display them outside their home range. In an enclosure just by the okapi is one for North American Tree porcupines. These charismatic species are very popular with the public and are one of the cutest animals in the zoo.

Before reaching the zoo's ape house, there is a large aviary complex. The most striking birds here are the Caribbean flamingoes. These birds are very common in zoos, but this doesn't mind the visitors who love the birds. The birds in the aviaries by the Flamingoes are not common in zoos at all. There are wattled guans, the only ones outside of South America, Delacour's Crested fireback, the only pair in a zoo in the world, two species of tragopan (Temminck's and satyr), a male brown kiwi and a large wader aviary which houses some species which are very rare in zoos (Turnstones and Dabchicks).

The zoo's Ape house houses four species in three exhibits. The smallest is the Siamang, which is kept in a very nice spacious area, outside and in. There is a large group of chimpanzees, but most interestingly a group of three very different Gorillas. There is a sterile male western lowland gorilla and two female eastern lowland gorillas (one of which is more like the mountain subspecies). The eastern lowland gorillas are the only ones of their subspecies in captivity.

Next to the ape house is a derelict bird of prey complex. This area used to house Lappet faced, black and hooded vultures, as well as African fishing eagles, but now only houses a pair of striped owls. These aviaries are really unsuitable for any large species, so it is for the best that the birds have moved onto better collections.

By these old aviaries are exhibits for Coypu, Humboldt's penguin and Dybowski's deer. The coypu live in a round exhibit which is made mainly from concrete. The Humboldt's penguin have a medium sized exhibit with a rocky beach and small pool. It is not the best penguin exhibit, but the zoo excels with penguin in another area of the zoo (more about that later). The very beautiful Dybowski's deer are kept in a very good exhibit which could be made better, but there is no problems with it the way that it is at the moment.

Then we get to the oldest building in the zoo, the Egyptian temple. It was built in 1856, but has had many renovations, the most recent being in 1988 when the building, and the hieroglyphics were restored to the original glory. The building houses the zoo's Lowland anoa, which live in the smallest of the three exhibits here. Inside the building, the three individuals are split up to reduce the risk of fighting between them. Their exhibit has also held (as recently as 2003) Arabian oryx, but like in so many other zoos, they have left the collection. The second largest exhibit here is occupied by Korfordan giraffes, a sub-species of giraffe which is very rare in zoos. The zoo has a large outdoor exhibit for these animals, but their indoor exhibit is lacking space. Space is an even bigger issue for the elephants at Antwerp which live in this house as well. They have the largest outdoor exhibit, but their indoor exhibit is no larger than that which the anoa live in (the two species are opposite each other in this building). This is another are of the zoo which needs to be re-though out...

Opposite the giraffe paddock is one for the zoos pig collection. This used to comprise of White lipped peccaries and Warthogs, but now only the warthogs remain. The exhibit is fine for the three individuals which live here, but is nothing of particular interest to any zoo fans who have seen this species before.

On the other side of the pig exhibits in another row of aviaries. There are three different curassows displayed here, the rarest being the red billed, which is only kept in a handful of zoos worldwide. The yellow knobbed and Helmeted curassows are not rare in zoos, but they are very popular with the visitors due to their characteristic appearance, and in the case of the yellow knobbed, it's high pitched whistling call. There is also a pair of Congo peafowl on exhibit here, with another one of Antwerp's specialities, great blue turacos. The zoo keeps three in a large tropical aviary. There are also Black crake, Egyptian plover and white crested turaco in here. In view of these aviaries are two paddocks housing Chapman's zebra and Cape buffalo, the latter of which breeds regularly. Antwerp is one of the few zoos to breed this species, as the males are very aggressive.

One of the most popular exhibits at Antwerp zoo is Vriesland, which exhibits sea otters and three species of penguins (Macaroni, King and Gentoo). All of the species have above and underwater viewing, which allows the public to follow their movements in and out of the water. Directly after Vriesland is the Aquarium, which has also gone under a renovation within the past few years. Some of the more unusual species here are the pygmy mudskippers and the tiny freshwater pufferfish.

The zoo's reptiles collection is all housed under one roof; the reptile house. There are helmeted turtles, nile crocodiles, komodo dragons, prehensile tailed skinks and carpet pythons all displayed fantastically in naturalistic glass fronted vivaria. Here is a place where the quality of the exhibit is better than the quantity of the species displayed. Outside the house is a very realistic mountain biotope for Himalayan tahr and Mishmi takin.

The zoo's hippos are housed in an area along with other Freshwater species, like pelicans and cormorants, and Malayan tapirs (which have a 'jacuzzi' inside!) The Hippos have a large outdoor pool which is perfect for them to lead a good life and also to let the public see them, although underwater viewing may also be a good idea here. The hippo house is tiled with smaller indoor pools where the zoo's three hippos can be split apart from each other. There is also a waterbird aviary attached to the hippos house which houses abdim's stork, giant wood rail and southern lapwing.

The zoo's bird house is world famous for it's ability to keep bird trapped in by light alone, although the birds are nothing of particular interest and can be kept in private aviculture and in some cases bought at pet shops! Some of the other exhibits though are more impressive: A large aviary with blue crowned hanging parrot and Sandgrouse; a tropical avairy with blacsmith plover, Sunbittern and pope cardinals; and two basic aviaries with rainbow and red flanked lorikeets. Outside the bird house are yet more aviaries keeping black billed turacos, Spix's guan, von der decken's hornbill, Greater roadrunner, Military macaw, blue headed macaw, Hyacinth macaw and Speckled mousebird, among others.

Other great exhibits at the zoo include the nocturama (with it's aardvarks, sloth and tamanduas) the new spectacled bear and coati exhibit and the zoo's very popular sea-lion show, which is always full of happy spectators clapping for the wonderfully charming Californian sea lions.
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  #2
Old 20-05-2008

Now for the Conclusion! What did you think of it? How does it measure up with the UK zoo's (Chester..?).

Other then that, fine visitor report of a very decent zoo!
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  #3
Old 20-05-2008

Another great review Jonathan! It sounds as if Antwerp still has the old taxonomic system of displaying animals, and there are some other, more curious choices. North American porcupines next to okapis?
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  #4
Old 20-05-2008

I really liked the collection, and I liked the way that most of the way that it was displayed, but there is certainly room for improvement. I can't really compare to Chester, I'm a bit bias towards to Chester! I think though that Antwerp will comtinue to improve, but some areas will be improved faster than others!
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  #5
Old 20-05-2008

I have seen both zoos too and Chester is way better then Antwerp. Chester has plenty of space and pretty much all enlosures are spacious and very, very well adapted to the animal`s needs. Antwerp is a very small zoo (I think Chester is about 4 times bigger!) and many enclosures are old and small. Elephants and giraffes, okapis and the big cats need much more space. The moneky house which has only small indoor enclosures for a umber of species is totally unacceptable. The indoor enclosures in the big ape house are also very small and very basic and far from modern standards.

I think things are slowly improving in Antwerp (new and relatively spacious hippo enclosure; new enclosure for spectacled bears; the current elephant and giraffe herds are scheduled to be moved to Plankendahl; new lion enclosure under construction; orang utan moved out last year; okapi enclosure expansion under construction....) but these is still so much to do. And unfortunately the zoo is planning to continue with elephants and giraffes in the city zoo with non-breeding-groups as soon as the current groups have been moved to Plankendahl. I do not think that there is nearly enough space!
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  #6
Old 21-05-2008

Ok thanks for your review! It's interessting to read. Antwerp is a small city zoo. I think it's difficult to find another zoo that is sooo into the center of a city (next to the central station) than Antwerp zoo. New projects are: a new lion exhibit this year, new okapi exhibits, new giraf exhibit, new exhibit for gorilla's, chimps. I think this zoo makes a lot of efforts to make things better for the animals. Almost everytime when you're there you can see new things. The sister park of the Antwerp zoo is Planckendael and is almost 3 or 4 times as big as the Antwerp Zoo. Together they keep a very big animal collection.
Anyway, I wonder how the Antwerp zoo will look like in a few years...

One of the most important things for the zoo now are science, education and conservation.
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  #7
Old 21-05-2008

I
Quote:
think it's difficult to find another zoo that is sooo into the center of a city
I would say, Artis?

Antwerp Zoo is at the moment 10 hectares, Planckendael is bout 40. After the rebuilding the zoo is 11.5 hectares. The giraffes from Antwerp will move in june to Mechelen.

Quote:
Together they keep a very big animal collection.
Correct, but the zoo and Planckendael going other ways. 10 years ago they have the perfect collection. Both zoos had a different spieces of animals. Now Planckendael wants to be an common zoo with Elephants, giraffes an gorilla's.
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  #8
Old 21-05-2008

Many other zoos are located in the middle of a city such as Artis or Berlin, but there is no way that any of them is located as central as Antwerpen . It is located back to back against the central station for those of you who didn't know...
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  #9
Old 21-05-2008



The large building in front is the railway station. The zoo entrance is between the buildings on the left and the railway station (you can see the gate). How close will you get?
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  #10
Old 22-05-2008

Another great review Hornbill
Shame the zoo is extremyl close to the railway though
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  #11
Old 22-05-2008

Mmm for you it's a shame that the zoo is next to the central station , but for most Belgian people it's also kind of nostalgie. When you think of the zoo you think of the central station , it's like they belong together. But it doesn't change the fact that the zoo has no more posibility's to become larger now. It always can be better of course... I like the way how the zoo invests a lot and tries to use their space the best way.
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  #12
Old 22-05-2008

Some pictures from may 2008 (photo's from 'Zoofreak', member of the Belgian Laafsekikkers.be zooforum)



New space for the Okapi's:


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  #13
Old 22-05-2008

Renovation and enlargement of the aquarium:
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  #14
Old 13-08-2008

About the Central Station again: the Central Station is this days a gift for the Antwerp Zoo, who is located in the middle of the city. Because of this, the Zoo isn't a good idea to do by car, but there is nowhere a zoo with so many public transport. The Central Station is one of the biggest of Belgium with 14 platforms and millions of travellers, there is a metro with 5 trams and 2 above, 71 busses 100 metres from the Zoo!

Each year, more than 250.000 people have a B-dagtrip (a ticket thats include train and an attraction in Belgium, the Zoo of Antwerp is the number-one destination). That's 23% of all the visitors. And you must know that many people without B-dagtrip comes to the zoo.
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  #15
Old 13-08-2008

The Aboholders will never take a B-Daytrip, and the most of them come by public transportation (tram, train, bus). Without this good public transportation they never would have so many visitors nowadays....

That is because Antwerp hasn"t a parkingplace, Planckendael does...

By the way, Hupie is talking about Gorilla's in Planckendael, there are no concrete plans about that. The Girafs are there now, the elephants will be there over a few years...

But the Zoo and Planckendael still have each an other character. Even when the Animalcollection seems to be the same almost... (for the quick eye)...

The Zoo is the old Historical Zoo with the classic animals, Planckendael is the fun (for kids) and adventurous Zoo with all kinds of Exotic and European animals
 


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