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One Of The 5 Best Zoos In North America » Woodland Park Zoo

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  #1
One Of The 5 Best Zoos In North America
Old 17-07-2009

Snappy title? Enthusiastic? Passionate? Or simply the truth?

I was inspired to write this thread based on a fairly new member of ZooChat, and I briefly mentioned this on another posting a couple of weeks ago. This individual privately messaged me to say that after spending some time glancing through the ZooChat photo gallery he had come to the conclusion that the Woodland Park Zoo was the # 1 zoo in North America. The innumerable naturalistic enclosures at the zoo impressed him, and the zoo is known for its realism when it comes to designing exhibits. In fact, it pioneered the modern day zoo industry with its now legendary 1976 "Long Range Plan".

Before I set off on my epic road trip in the summer of 2008, I had a lot of correspondence with ZooChatters on which zoos I should visit. It is all chronicled on the thread "Snowleopard's Epic Road Trip", but all along I lived only 2.5 hours from one of the very best zoos on the continent. I asked 10 ZooChatters (you know who you are!) to send me their lists of the top 5 or top 10 zoos in North America. It was interesting for me to receive the lists back from individuals who had travelled to at least 35 or more Canadian/American zoos. I compiled the data and was shocked to see that the Woodland Park Zoo overall ranked higher than the San Diego Zoo. I personally believe that San Diego and the Bronx are both bigger and better zoos, but after that things become blurry. Columbus? Omaha? Woodland Park? Miami?

Check out the over 1,000 photos of Woodland Park in the ZooChat gallery, or come and visit the zoo in Seattle. If you like amusement park rides, trains, cartoon mascots and easy-to-find animals you will be sorely disappointed. If you enjoy spending time at exhibits, straining your eyes to locate one of the occupants of the enclosure, then you will truly appreciate the wonders of the animal kingdom here. The exhibits are naturalistic, there are no guarantees that the animals will be sitting in plain view, and everything will be lush, green and full of thick bushes and shrubs. A ZooChatters heaven!

Woodland Park Zoo:

This zoo was first opened in 1899, and its 92 acre property features 65 acres devoted to the actual zoo grounds. A relatively small zoo in terms of its collection, with about 1,100 animals, but a prestigious zoo in terms of quality over quantity. The Woodland Park Zoo trails only the Bronx Zoo of New York in terms of AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association) Best Exhibit Awards. Whether one believes that these awards are noteworthy is irrelevant, as there is no denying the fact that both Woodland Park and the Bronx are packed with outstanding animal habitats.

Award-Winning Exhibits at Woodland Park Zoo:

Trail of Vines (Tropical Asia) - a pair of spacious orangutan enclosures (arguably the best in North America for orangs), lion-tailed macaques (second best in North America after San Diego), indian pythons, malayan tapirs, and siamang gibbons (easily one of the best). Award won in 1995.

Elephant Forest (Tropical Asia) - 3 Asian elephants in a 1.5 acre exhibit, surrounded by a mock-temple environment. This enclosure won best exhibit of the year in 1989 but has since come under fire for being too small. How times have changed in the zoo community.

African Savanna - Giraffes, ostrich, gazelle, oryx, zebra in one large paddock, with patas monkeys (outstanding), lions (excellent), african wild dogs and hippos in adjoining exhibits. Award won in 1980, and an African Village entrance was added in 2001.

Tropical Rainforest - Poison dart frogs, ocelots, anacondas, piranhas, golden lion tamarins, a variety of birds, walk-through indoor aviary, and two connected gorilla enclosures that were the first EVER naturalistic gorilla exhibits (1979) and still perhaps in the top 5 in North America. There are amazingly naturalistic exhibits for red ruffed lemurs, colobus monkeys and red-flanked duikers on an outdoor pathway. Award won in 1992.

Northern Trail - The most popular section of the zoo according to zoo polls. A pair of 900-pound grizzly bears (arguably the best for grizzlies), river otters, rocky mountain goats (outstanding), arctic foxes, snowy owls, porcupines, walk-through bald eagle aviary (brilliant) gray wolves and roosevelt elk in a fantastic set of exhibits. Award won in 1994.

Jaguar Cove - a lush, glassed enclosure with a variety of enrichment that includes a pond for underwater viewing. Arguably the best jaguar exhibit in North America. Award won in 2003.

Humboldt Penguin Exhibit - the best penguin habitat that I've ever seen in a zoo, this $6.5 million habitat opened in May of 2009 and will be a candidate for yet another exhibit award.

The zoo is arranged geographically, and was one of the first zoos worldwide to showcase its animals in such a way. A Temperate Forest region has red pandas, asian cranes, japanese serow, conservation bird aviaries, and a walk-through wetlands aviary. There is also a small insectarium, a spider house, and a family farm. There is an Australiasian section and a raptor centre, along with exhbits for snow leopards, komodo dragons, sun bears, sloth bears, sumatran tigers, flamingos, etc. Kid-friendly attractions include "Willawong Station" (lorikeets, parakeets & budgies), a "Historic Carousel", and "Zoomazium", which cost $10 million and is a large building that serves as an indoor play-area for children.

There is also a very good night-and-day building, which is neatly divided in two. One half has a reptile, amphibian and small mammal collection in heated exhibits. The second half is the excellent nocturnal house, with various species of bats, along with prehensile-tailed porcupines, armadillos, slow loris, galagos, douroucellis, tamanduas, sloths, etc. The nocturnal house is easily one of the 3-4 best in North America.
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  #2
Old 17-07-2009

NOT Omaha. There are so many zoos that are better, and don't decorate the visitors spaces simply so that guests forget how unenriched the animal spaces are (i.e. serval exhibit in Desert Dome, pachyderm exhibits in Lied Jungle). In place of Omaha I think it should say St. Louis
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  #3
Old 17-07-2009

Seattle has a heck of a zoo. I enjoyed every minute there. The serow exhibit was my favorite. Outside of Bronx and San Diego, this may be my favorite as well. I think it helps that Seattle is in such a pretty part of the country. If you see it in one of the 2 months out of the year when it isn't raining, it's hard to beat.
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  #4
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Old 17-07-2009

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackRhino View Post
NOT Omaha. There are so many zoos that are better, and don't decorate the visitors spaces simply so that guests forget how unenriched the animal spaces are (i.e. serval exhibit in Desert Dome, pachyderm exhibits in Lied Jungle). In place of Omaha I think it should say St. Louis
And this evaluation is based on what? Pictures? Testimony from Omaha-haters?

As a former president once said, "There you go again".
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  #5
Old 17-07-2009

Lied Jungle

These tapirs sure have a lot of space!
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  #6
Old 17-07-2009

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackRhino View Post
Lied Jungle

These tapirs sure have a lot of space!
And such a "realistic" habitat! But guess where they spend 16 hours a day--in a basement stall no bigger than 10' by 10.' There are good reasons not all of us think Omaha is as great as so many claim it to be.
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  #7
Old 17-07-2009

Quote:
Originally Posted by reduakari View Post
And such a "realistic" habitat! But guess where they spend 16 hours a day--in a basement stall no bigger than 10' by 10.' There are good reasons not all of us think Omaha is as great as so many claim it to be.
If you've actually been there and seen it for yourself, I have no problems with you not liking it. We all have personal tastes. While most people like pizza, I hate it.

Actually, BlackRhino, those tapirs DO have enough space. That photo shows only a part of their exhibit area.

Here's an example of how bad evaluating based on photographs can be: Have you all seen the famous photo of US President Obama checking out the butt of a 17-year-old Brazilian girl? obama and brazilian girl - iReport.com

IF you just look at the photo, Obama looks like a real pervert -- the second coming of Bill Clinton. But if you watch the actual video of this incident, he's not quite off the hook, but it looks much more innocent.

So consider that the next time you want to say "Omaha is rotten" or "Elephant Odyssey is awful", or Zoo X is great" just based on photographs.
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  #8
Old 17-07-2009

Haha thats funny, I hate pizza too. Anyways, St. Louis I am not judging from photographs because I watched a whole documentary on both the making of River's Edge and Penguin & Puffin Coast on Ultimate Zoo. After seeing those two exhibits I would definitely classify St. Louis as a top 5 zoo as both exhibits are incredible. I also read the descriptions in your book too. I guess the reason I like pointing out Omaha's flaws is because it steals attention (for lack of better words), in my opinion, from better zoos like St. Louis, a zoo that is especially not recognized as a top 5 zoo on this website. It has been said on here many times by not just the Omaha haters that the tapirs don't have enough room. To me that is not just a minor flaw. The fact that a Malayan Tapir, a primarily terrestrial species, is confined to a small strip of land is a problem. That piece of land almost encourages pacing behavior as one can tell from a photo that is just about as wide as a tapir!
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  #9
Old 17-07-2009

@ANyhuis + BlackRhino: I privately message you two all the time and yet you've hijacked my thread and turned it into another Omaha debate! Just teasing, and I really don't mind...threads constantly go off the rails here at ZooChat. Probably 75% of the best debates and comments are in the photo gallery anyway, as it seems that is the far more popular area of the website.

@ANyhuis: no matter how great the Lied Jungle is, and it certainly has some spectacular sections, I'd be shocked if even 1 person on this website (that has more than a thousand members) would agree with you on the fact that the tapirs have enough space. The exhibit is disgracefully small for such large animals, and thus people on ZooChat have been complaining about it for years now. There is zero justification for keeping tapirs in such a puny enclosure.

@BlackRhino: you need to really visit Omaha in person, as it is a mixture of the good and bad within the zoo industry. Some sad little enclosures, and some amazing ones as well. While you are at it you should also come over to Seattle, as you rate Woodland Park very high and I'm guessing that you'd love the zoo.
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  #10
Old 17-07-2009

I appreciate your attitude, BRhino! Nice that I can disagree with someone without ending up getting insulted! I have NO problem with classifying St.Louis in the Top 5 -- I personally would put it in the "Second 5" (#6-#10). It's a VERY good zoo!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackRhino View Post
I guess the reason I like pointing out Omaha's flaws is because it steals attention (for lack of better words), in my opinion, from better zoos like St. Louis
Actually, Omaha is not really "stealing attention" from any zoo. Only here is it getting any real attention -- and it gets as much scorn here as it does praise. One thing I enjoy about being the authors of our book is the chance to promote some zoos that are very, very good -- but don't get a lot of national attention (mostly due to the small town they're in). Omaha is one of these "hidden gems". Others include North Carolina, Memphis, Sedgwick County, Minnesota, and Columbus. (Though Columbus is starting to catch on!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackRhino View Post
The fact that a Malayan Tapir, a primarily terrestrial species, is confined to a small strip of land is a problem. That piece of land almost encourages pacing behavior as one can tell from a photo that is just about as wide as a tapir!
In the 3 times I've seen the Lied Jungle, 2 of the times these tapirs were in the water, so I didn't give it another thought that they might not have enough land.
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  #11
Old 17-07-2009

Although there are some great ones at Omaha they all have some pretty major flaws. Many carnivores in Desert Dome have barely any space, same with the larger animals in Lied Jungle. At other zoos there greatest exhibits don't have those same problems. No where in Congo Gorilla Forest is there a space problem with all the animals living there. Same with Arctic Ring of Life, Oklahoma Trails, River's Edge, Himalayan Highlands, Tropical RainForest including Jaguar Cove, Northern Trail, Kilamanjaro Safari, etc. In Omaha though the world-class exhibits have animals in embarrassingly small spaces. They probably would be more noticed if the visitor experience wasn't as good. And yes, I much rather visit WPZ or the St. Louis Zoo over Omaha. I suppose I am still failing to see why Omaha is so great.
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  #12
Old 17-07-2009

Nice post/thread, snowleopard! Since joining ZooChat I have developed a soft spot for this particular zoo...

Please go on feeding us with pictures whenever you visit it!
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  #13
Old 17-07-2009

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowleopard View Post
@ANyhuis + BlackRhino: I privately message you two all the time and yet you've hijacked my thread and turned it into another Omaha debate!
Sorry! I meant to just make a point that you can't always judge a zoo (or an exhibit just based on photographs. That's why I brought up the famous Obama photo. (Don't you think it makes my point pretty well?)

By the way, I've received NO new PM from you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowleopard View Post
@ANyhuis: no matter how great the Lied Jungle is, and it certainly has some spectacular sections, I'd be shocked if even 1 person on this website (that has more than a thousand members) would agree with you on the fact that the tapirs have enough space. The exhibit is disgracefully small for such large animals, and thus people on ZooChat have been complaining about it for years now. There is zero justification for keeping tapirs in such a puny enclosure.
I'll admit that I don't know what the "standards" are for Malayan tapir exhibits. Jon once told me that almost all Otter exhibits in the USA give them too little dry land, thinking they stay in the water all the time. Maybe the same is true for tapirs. But almost all Malayan tapirs I see in zoos (any zoo) are either in the water or sitting still on the ground. I've never seen one pacing. So I'm not saying this is a "great" exhibit, but it's also far from "disgracefully small".

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowleopard View Post
@BlackRhino: you need to really visit Omaha in person
He's right!
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  #14
Old 17-07-2009

@Allen: The above comment wasn't intending to carry on the argument that Omaha is terrible. We just posted at the same time so it might appear that way, it was a response to SL's previous comment. Anyways, I think St. Louis deserves much more attention then it gets. I am a huge fan of the Columbus Zoo, although I think it gets plenty of the attention it needs. It was just ranked #1 zoo in America (I don't remember by who though)
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  #15
Old 17-07-2009

@ANyhuis: do I owe you a private message? I'm falling behind in my correspondence! I'll send you an email instead. Cheers.

@Dan: each time that I visit Woodland Park I'll take photos, as many people comment on them due to the lush greenery that is in almost every single exhibit. I think that half of my photos from Seattle don't even show animals, but that is part of the pleasure in visiting the zoo. However, I do admit that if I lived overseas and was visiting for the one and only time in my life it would be disappointing to come away without seeing the jaguar, ocelots, sun bears, tapirs, etc.
 


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